All rounder Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin has been in the thick of things since his arrival in Team India in 2010. Since then he has become the leader of the Indian bowling pack and is expected to win matches for India, especially in Test cricket. With the ball in his hand, but his batting skills have always been less talked about. He has never been expected to do magic with the bat but slowly and gradually, he is proving his mettle in the batting department.Yet, Ashwin has gone about his job largely unnoticed, as if saying his abracadbra from behind. He has, so far, remained the unsung hero of Indian cricket.
Consider Ashwin’s record: His 17 five-fors in 33 Tests are the highest by any spinner at a comparable stage. The only bowler to have taken more five-wicket hauls, 19, after 33 Tests was the pacer known for his legendary toe-crushers, Waqar Younis.
When Ashwin scored a century in the first Test against West Indies and then bowled out the opposition in the second innings, he achieved a feat credited to a cricketing legend. Before him only Ian Botham had scored a ton and returned with a 7-for in a Test.
But, statistics is only half the story in cricket. Many cricketers have burst on the Indian scene in a blaze of records only to wither away. Vinod Kambli started with a string of hundreds and double-hundreds, proudly claiming that he had caught up with Sachin Tendulkar in spite of taking the stairs. Ajit Agarkar, the gentle boy, was the fastest to achieve 50 wickets in one-dayers. And then they fizzled away. recently Hardik Pandya was also introduced as an allrounder but in his case only time will tell whether he can really become the one. Irfan Pathan emerged as a medium pacer who could bat and bat like any other batsman, the experiment worked for some time but gradually his bowling took a back seat and like others he too faded away, some into notoriety and others into the drudgery of labouring in the Ranji Trophy.
Ashwin, Unlike the Agarkars and Kamblis, is eager to evolve, present to us a new, improved version of himself every few months.
When he was promoted up the order in West Indies, it wasn’t one of those “dekhte hain kya hota hai” decisions that have characterized Indian cricket. There was a time when the “dekhte hain” school of thought was dominant in Indian cricket, leading to decisions like promoting Javagal Srinath as “pinch hitter” or using Manoj Prabhakar as an opener or even considering Dhoni as a allrounder, which he was.
India has been looking for a genuine all-rounder since Kapil Dev and time-and-again Ashwin has proved why he is the No.1 Test all-rounder in the world at the moment. Ashwin is also the No.1 ranked Test bowler in the ICC chart.
While it’s not too often that we see Ashwin struggling to pick wickets at home, but the 30-year-old has made it a habit of scoring runs in Test cricket. He has four centuries in Test cricket and interestingly all have come against West Indies.
Ashwin’s story is of hard work and spending long hours on the net. For the past one year, Ashwin has worked hard on his running between the wickets (lazy, confused, rabbit in headlights were some of the adjectives used earlier), changed his stance, worked on getting the location of his off-stump right, concentrated on the art of leaving balls in the corridor of uncertainty and set himself targets that a regular batsman does. Just a few months back, Ashwin was being seen as a failure in the IPL. Since he was not taking wickets, his captain MS Dhoni was not giving him enough overs, leading to speculation that Ashwin is now past his prime.
But, now that he is back with a bang, his evolution as an all-rounder is great news for the Indian team. With Wriddhiman Saha still struggling to bat less like Dhoni and more like Syed Kirmani, it gives the Indian team a batting option that has been missing since the days of Kapil Dev. With a batting average of close to 34, it’s now probably time that we start considering Ashwin as a genuine all-rounder.
“I always value myself as an allrounder, Not like I don’t look at myself that way. Batting at six, there is always opportunities to score a hundred than when you are batting at eight. So, I have started off well on that note. Batting at No.6, I have managed a five-for as well. I just hope I can go from strength to strength from here,” said Ashwin.
Ashwin versus Former Stars
Ashwin, who has won seven Man of the Series awards, is already ahead of legendary all-rounders Kapil Dev, Ian Botham, Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee after 40 Tests. Ashwin has a better batting average, more wickets and more five-wicket hauls than any of these former stalwarts.
Comparing Jacques Kallis and Ravichandran Ashwin would be stupidity. As a player Jacques Kallis who was colossal at number 4 for South Africa comes not once in a decade or a generation but once in a century. He has been a phenomenon and beyond any comparison. Barring Jacques Kallis, Ravichandran Ashwin stands tall when compared to any other all-rounder, be it contemporary or all-time greats. Success of Ravichandran Ashwin as a batsman will not only depend on his capability with the bat but also on how much trust Captain and Coach has in him as a batsmen. By opting for 5 bowlers and putting Ravichandran Ashwin at number 6 in batting, Virat Kohli has shown ample faith in Ashwin’s batting.