21 September 2019 08:04 AM

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PARTAB RAMCHAND | 30 NOVEMBER, 2017

It’s Time Ashwin Is Given His Due

It’s Time Ashwin Is Given His Due


Every time Ravichandran Ashwin has pulled off a remarkable bowling feat – and this has been the rule rather than the exception – there are those who quickly point out to his mediocre record abroad to drive home a point that he is not the great bowler which his overall figures suggest, that he can only take wickets in home conditions and that he will come a cropper when the Indian team plays in South Africa, England and Australia, countries they are scheduled to visit over the next 14 months.

There are several points to be considered when analysing Ashwin’s performance. First and foremost he has taken 216 wickets in 34 home Tests at an average of 22. 46. That’s more than six wickets a match and is a feat beyond every other Indian bowler. The average too is the best for any Indian bowler at home apart from his ``spin twin'' Ravindra Jadeja.

Secondly he has bowled to all the leading batsmen in the world and has met with success. He has an admirable record against Australia, England, South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka the countries which have produced the top batsmen in the game over the last five years that Ashwin has been around. More often than not he has got the better of them in duels with his spin, guile and flight.

Third he has taken 300 wickets in 54 Tests eclipsing the record of 56 matches set by Dennis Lillee 36 years ago. Among the others he has bettered all of them have been principally specialist bowlers whereas Ashwin is a genuine all rounder as the difference between his batting average (31.55) and the bowling average (25.06) underlines. Moreover his average is far better than any Indian bowler with over 200 wickets; the next best Bishen Bedi averages 28.71 for his 266 wickets in 67 Tests. His strike rate (52.1) is unmatched among Indian bowlers and compares favourably with other bowlers who have 300 wickets. Indeed among bowlers from the subcontinent with over 300 wickets his strike rate is second only to that of Waqar Younis. And as regards spin bowlers he is the fastest in terms of deliveries bowled having sent down nearly 3000 balls less than the next best Shane Warne to 300 wickets.

It is clear then that on the strength of his eye rubbing and mind boggling stats Ashwin stands alone among Indian bowlers. And if one compares the home and away record of most other bowlers considered great in the game’s history there will be a disparity. So why is Ashwin being singled out? It is true that he has to improve on his away record which at the moment is 84 wickets from 20 matches at 31.75 apiece. Still a yield of four wickets a Test away from home is not something to be scoffed at.

A lot has been made of the fact that he has failed in Australia, England and South Africa where his total bag of wickets is 24 from nine tests. But on closer scrutiny it can be seen that he has had a rather limited role to play. In England he has played only two Tests and taken three wickets. In South Africa he has played only one Test in which he went wicketless. It is only in Australia that a critical finger can be pointed at him for he has a haul of 21 wickets in six Tests at 54.71 apiece.

Still it is difficult to see Ashwin not among the wickets in these three countries over the next year or so. He is too good a bowler to remain in the background or play a negligible role. He is vastly experienced and one can already see him unleash his bag of tricks whether it be in Johannesburg, Manchester or Adelaide. He is a highly skilled practitioner who leaves batsmen bemused with his deft mixture of off breaks and leg breaks, the carom ball or one that zips straight through the batsmen’s defence all the time adhering to the basics of line and length while adding alluring flight as an additional weapon to confuse the batsmen further. Ashwin is a class act and it is time he is given his due. The least one can do is to have respect for a cricketer who has set records left, right and centre capped by his most recent feat of surpassing a mark set by none other than Dennis Keith Lillee.

In any case I venture to forecast that in around a year’s time his detractors who would like to be derisive about Ashwin’s bowling purely on his overseas record and who have predicted failure for him this time around will be eating humble pie.
 

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