Spin king

February 25, 2024

Indian spinner R. Ashwin, who has just joined the elite 500-Test wicket club, has served his team extremely well for more than a decade

Spin king

In modern cricket, spinners play a more important role than before, especially on the fourth and fifth days of a Test when the pitch tends to wear down, and there is more assistance for spin bowling. Spinners are often used to create pressure, provide breakthroughs, and bowl long spells to give the pace bowlers a rest.

Spinners are often more effective on pitches that offer turn and bounce. In sub continental countries, where the pitches tend to be dry and conducive to spin, spinners play a crucial role.

During the third Test against England, Indian ace off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin became the second-fastest to 500 wickets in Test cricket.

Ashwin began the Rajkot Test on 499 wickets and dismissed Zak Crawley (15) to claim his 500th wicket, becoming the ninth bowler to achieve this feat.

Ashwin, 37, reached the milestone in his 98th Test, which took him past his teammate Anil Kumble, who took 105 matches. Sri Lanka’s legend Muttiah Muralitharan is the fastest as he took only 87 Tests to achieve the feat.

Overall, Ashwin is the fifth spinner across the globe to join the elite 500-wicket club after Anil Kumble, Muttiah Muralidaran, Shane Warne and Nathan Lyon.

Ashwin has played a significant role in Indian cricket across all formats of the game. He is one of India’s premier spin bowlers and has been a mainstay in the team’s bowling lineup for many years.

He is known for his ability to bowl accurately and exploit variations in flight and spin to trouble batsmen.

Ashwin is one of the most successful wicket-takers in Indian cricket history. His skill in taking wickets consistently has been crucial for India in all conditions, including home matches where spinners traditionally play a vital role.

Ashwin is known for his versatility as a bowler. He is proficient in bowling different types of spin, including off-spin, carrom ball, and variations like the ‘doosra’ and ‘slider.’ His ability to adapt to different conditions and situations makes him a valuable asset to the Indian team.

Ashwin has shown leadership qualities on the field, providing guidance to younger bowlers and contributing to team strategies. He has also captained the Indian team in Test matches in the absence of regular captains, showcasing his leadership abilities.

Ashwin has been particularly successful in Test cricket, where his skills as a spin bowler are most pronounced.

While Ashwin’s primary success has come in Test cricket, he has also been effective in limited-overs formats.

Ashwin’s success is not only against weaker teams. He has taken 114 (avg. 28.36) against Australia, 99 wickets (avg. 29.28) against England, 66 wickets against New Zealand and 57 against South Africa. He hasn’t played any Test against Pakistan.

His best performance came against New Zealand in the 2016-17 home season. He took 27 wickets in a three-Test series. Overall, he has taken 34 five-wicket and 10 ten-wicket hauls in Test matches.

The Indian spinner also holds the second most Player of the Test Series awards — 10 in just 41 series. Muttiah Muralitharan has the record of receiving most (11) Player of the Test Series awards in 61 series.

Overall, 69.4% of Ashwin’s wickets have come in India, in the last 30 years. Only Ravindra Jadeja (71.1%) has a higher proportion in home Tests.

Nearly half of Ashwin’s Test wickets are left-hand batsmen. His 249 wickets make him the most prolific wicket-taker in Test history against left-handers. His average and strike rate against them is far better than his record against right-hand batsmen.

India have won 43 out of 57 home matches featuring Ashwin.

Ashwin made his debut for India in November 2011, against West Indies in Delhi and bowled Darren Bravo to claim his first wicket.

The off-spinner took nine wickets in his maiden Test, in which he was Player of the Match. In his first 16 Tests he collected nine five-fors, and he went on to be the fastest to 300 wickets and the second fastest to 400, behind only Muthiah Muralidaran.

Only Anil Kumble, who has 619 wickets, is ahead of Ashwin among Indians on the wicket-takers’ tally in Tests. He is also only the third offspinner to the mark, after Muralidaran and Nathan Lyon.

Ashwin identified the period from 2018 to 2019, when he lost his place in the Indian team away from home, as the most challenging phase of his career, describing it as a “bottomless pit” before the Covid-19 pandemic gave him perspective.

“Life has had its ups and downs and for me the lowest part for me was that 2018-2019 period,” he said. “I was the ICC cricketer of the year and on top of the world and from there to actually go to a really bottomless pit was a very dark time in my life.”

Apart from his bowling prowess, Ashwin is also a handy lower-order batsman. He has scored 3,308 runs including five Test centuries and 14 fifties in his 13-year long Test career.


Spin king