• Saturday, April 13, 2024

CRICKET

India’s Ashwin joins exclusive club with 500 Test wickets milestone

Cricket – Third Test – India v England – Niranjan Shah Stadium, Rajkot, India – February 16, 2024 India’s Ravichandran Ashwin REUTERS/Amit Dave

By: Pramod Thomas

INDIAN off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on Friday (16) entered an elite club of bowlers to take 500 Test wickets in a stellar cricketing career that includes a World Cup triumph.

India’s go-to bowler for more than a decade, Ashwin took his 500th wicket in the third Test in Rajkot by dismissing England’s Zak Crawley to team hugs and a standing ovation from the crowd.

“One of the greats of the game gets to a fantastic landmark. Time to stand up and applaud a phenomenal achievement,” veteran commentator Harsha Bhogle wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The 37-year-old Ashwin, called an “all-time great” by his Test captain Rohit Sharma, became only the ninth bowler to hit the landmark and only the second from India after Anil Kumble (619).

Ashwin, from the southern city of Chennai, started out as an IT engineer after graduating from university and is known for his precision.

The innovative Ashwin is still honing his craft, even though his skill and guile have already led to a glittering international career.

Employing the full width of the crease, Ashwin delivers his off-spin from multiple angles with varying pace.

He also has a deceptive “arm ball” that goes straight on and has worked to develop a “carrom ball” that goes the other way, delivered using his knuckles.

But his sometimes blunt, no-nonsense attitude has led to the occasional controversy, such as when inflicting “Mankad” runouts at the non-striker’s end.

Former captain Virat Kohli dubbed Ashwin “lege” — from the word “legend” — and once said: “We are running out of words to describe his performances.”

Ashwin was part of India’s 2011 50-over World Cup title win at home and then the 2013 Champions Trophy, but it was three years later that he matured as a top-level bowler.

He took 48 wickets in eight Tests and had 27 victims in 19 Twenty20 matches in the 2015-16 season to be named the ICC cricketer of the year.

Ashwin now has 34 five-wicket hauls to his name, with a best of 7-59, over 98 Tests since his debut in 2011.

“He’s a world-class bowler and somebody I have watched closely from the start of his career,” Australia’s leading spinner Nathan Lyon said.

“There is opportunity to learn from the people you play against, and without knowing it he’s probably been one of my biggest coaches, in a way.”

Ashwin started off as a batsman who bowled medium-pace before switching to off-spin.

The all-rounder also never lost touch with his batting.

He has 3,308 Test runs — including five centuries — from playing in the middle- and lower-order, with a career high of 124.

He formed a potent spin partnership with Ravindra Jadeja, becoming the most successful pair for India in Tests, surpassing Kumble and Harbhajan Singh who took 501 in 54 Tests together.

Ashwin ignited controversy in 2019 when he ran out England captain Jos Buttler at the non-striker’s end, sparking debate on whether it was contrary to the spirit of the game.

The rarely used dismissal was named after former India all-rounder Vinoo Mankad, who twice ran out Australia’s Bill Brown at the bowler’s end in 1948,

Ashwin remained defiant about his use of the dismissal and was vindicated when the International Cricket Council recognised its legitimacy in the sport’s 2022 rule changes.

(AFP)

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