Ravichandran Ashwin has been the backbone of India’s bowling attack for last year or so. He has been Virat Kohli’s go to bowler. Whenever India needed someone to put their hand up, it has been Ashwin. However it has not been a smooth sail for Ashwin in his test career. While his figures at home are nothing less than astonishing, his performances overseas have not been up to the mark. At the end of Australia tour 2014 Ashwin had only 24 overseas wickets from 9 test as opposed to 90 from 15 tests at home.
Ashwin started his career on a high against West Indies and became India’s leading wicket taker in debut series with 22 wickets, five wicket hauls in Delhi and Mumbai. The subsequent Australia tour was not so memorable for him as he picked only 9 wickets from 3 tests. India had a long home season in 2012 with tests against New Zealand, England and Australia. The season kicked off brilliantly for Ashwin with 6-fers in both innings at Hyderabad vs New Zealand. Then another 5 fer in Bangalore and he ended up with 18 wickets in the series. When England came to India for 4 tests a lot was expected from Ashwin but he failed to deliver the goods with only 14 wickets in 4 tests despite the pitches being rank turners. His performances against Australia were very instrumental in India whitewashing Australia as he picked 29 wickets in the series. In Wanderers test Ashwin bowled 36 wicket less overs and lost his place in the side till England tour. His only impressive performance was 4/105 at Sydney.
On occasions he had been guilty of trying to many things instead of sticking to one line. He overused carrom ball in series vs England. He came up with few variations in 2012 like pause and deliver, where he used to take a little pause in his run up but that didn’t work too much and he has scrapped it out of his armoury.
2015 saw a totally different Ravi Ashwin. In the test match against Bangladesh at Fatullah, he picked up 5/87. That was the beginning of Ashwin’s evolution as a off spinner. He went to pick 21 wickets against Sri Lanka and then spin a web to bamboozle South Africa with 31 scalps. He had a successful tour of WI with both bat and ball and assumed the responsibility of all rounder amazingly. India began the 13 test long home season and in the Series against New Zealand he continued his love affair vs New Zealand at home picking 27 wickets in 3 tests.
On foreign pitches it has been primarily because of pitches that Ashwin has lost his venom. And obviously you don’t expect a spinner to pick a 5 fer in first 2 days in say England or South Africa. On ocassion critics have often been of the opinion that the underprepared pitches have helped Ashwin to a great extent. But as a bowler you have to put the ball in right areas to get wickets irrespective of pitch. The 2015 Ravi Ashwin began flighting the ball a lot more, relying more on his stock delivery which is the off break and started using carrom ball sparingly.
Ashwin became the second fastest to 200 test wickets after dismissing Williamson at Kanpur. If you compare Ashwin’s figures with the wizards of spin, Warne and Muralitharan both got their 200th wicket in their 42nd test. His senior partner Harbhajan took 46 test, while coach Anil Kumble took 47 tests. Warne had 187 wickets in 40 tests. And no to forget his credentials with the bat. That puts him close to Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Richard Haddlee and co. When he calls it a day Ashwin will be remembered as one of the best in best in the biz!!
– by Atharva Apte