Ravichandran Ashwin gave cricket-crazy India the perfect Christmas present as he wrapped up an intense chase with Bangladesh in style – pushing a series of boundaries against Mehidy Hasan Miraz. Ranked 74/7 chasing a modest goal of 145, India sadly received a shock defeat before Ashwin joined Shreyas Iyer to score a memorable victory in Mirpur.
Ashwin’s second-round heroic in the Mirpur Test overshadowed a major milestone he hit in the first inning. Ashwin completed 3,000 Test runs when he beat Bangladesh captain Shakib al Hasan by four points in the third session of the second day.
After his Man of the Match performance, social media was flooded with posts comparing him to Kapil Dev, arguably India’s most comprehensive. However, the comparison is not without reason.
Ashwin became the second Indian after Dev to complete a double Test of 3,000 runs and 400 hits. Only four other cricketers – Sir Richard Hadleelate Shane warned, Pollock Shaunand Wide Stuart – has accomplished this feat so far.
Furthermore, Ashwin (88 Tests) is the second fastest to reach the milestone after Hadlee, who reached the milestone in his 83rd Test. His countryman Dev hit the big milestone in his 115th Test, when he won his 400th bat.
Dev and Hadlee were part of the ‘all-round quartet’ of the 1980s that included Imran Khan and Ian Botham, while Warne and Broad only managed to find a spot on the list thanks to their handy low-ball batting and versatility their long-term career.
Ashwin’s all-round record is expected to once again be in the spotlight in February 2023, if he makes his 450th test against the touring Australia team. In doing so, he will join Warne and Broad for 450 test runs and 3,000 runs. However, he will be unrivaled as a modern-day all-rounder.
Ashwin’s batting record pales in comparison to his incredible bowling stats. Some critics refuse to call him a ‘genuine’ all-rounder, mainly due to his lack of batting record in limited cricket.
However, the concept of the ‘whole person’ itself has opened up a number of interpretations. Sir Garfield Sobers and Jacques Kallis are perhaps the most prominent examples of ‘all-around hitters’ while Hadlee and Dev are the quintessential ‘all-around pitchers’. Ultimately, all-rounders are more likely to dominate in batting or bowling.
Let us dive into the statistics for a look at Ashwin’s Comprehensive Test record.
The statistical similarities between Ashwin and Hadlee are quite striking. Like Hadlee, Ashwin is considered a ‘all-around bowler’. While Hadlee has 431 hits in 86 Tests, Ashwin has 442 in the same number of games. Both players also have a lot of eats and 10s against their name – Hadlee’s 36 eats and 9 10s vs Ashwin’s 30s and 7 10s. Ashwin scored 3,043 runs at an average of 27.41, while Hadlee finished his career with 3,124 runs at an average of 27.17.
In February 2023, the pitcher without the gyroscope could become the second fastest pitcher with the following 450 shots Muttiah Muralitharan. Warne and Broad, two other pitchers in the ‘450 wicket-3,000 running club’, weren’t even close. Also, their batting average is much lower than 20 to qualify for the all-around title.
In fact, Ashwin is expected to be the fastest to join the ‘450-3,000-run club’ even though his hitting ability has declined significantly since 2017. Off-player- spinner completed 2,000 Test runs in 71 runs – faster than Hadlee, Khan and Pollock but five rounds slower than Botham and one over Dev. Had Ashwin maintained or improved his batting after hitting this milestone, he could have beaten Hadlee’s all-round record by a big margin.
On top of that, Ashwin hit a rare all-around in a century of Tests and five goals in three innings – twice against the West Indies, once against England. Only Botham (five) surpasses him in this regard.
But cricket, especially Test cricket, is about more than flashy stats and individual milestones. Numbers can lie and the law of averages can be cruel to many cricketers whose contributions go far beyond simple numbers. The Three Ts – Technique, Temperament and Endurance – are the keys to developing in the best form of cricket. Ashwin has all three and has proven it over and over again.
The Spinning Wizard showed his all-around ability in his own Third Test, when he hit his first century mark to help India avoid a humiliating match against the West Indies. With nine goals in the game, Ashwin’s performance earned him the Man of the Match award. Fast-forward to India’s legendary tour of Australia in 2020-21 and the world has seen a defiant Ashwin team up with Hanuma Vihari to generate a draw from the function of a given defeat.
Attitude never says die
Ashwin is a boxer with a never-ending attitude, which has helped him develop into a cricketer who values his racquet when it comes to bowling and batting. For Ashwin, cricket is a game of chess played on a 22-yard field, full of mind games. It is therefore natural for cricket analysts to call Ashwin one of the best thinkers in modern cricket.
Ashwin’s ‘thinker’ appeared in a video chat with Cheteshwar Pujara on bcci.tv. When asked about his hit mantra in difficult situations, the pitcher replied: “…Don’t think that (following the line in the air) is the right way because pitchers throw the ball. putting pressure on. You can’t just do that and walk away all the time. He added that cricket must be played with a “solid defense” under pressure – a statement that is sure to make Rahul Dravid proud!
However, critics point to Ashwin’s poor performance in SENA countries (South Africa, UK, New Zealand and Australia) to deny him the ‘GOAT’ title. The criticism is not wrong.
Ashwin’s home versus away record is in favor of home conditions. With 312 goals at an average of 21, Ashwin’s home record is unmatched. However, his bowling record in the SENA countries is still poor – 70 hits at a rate of 39.34 runs per person. His overseas batting record looks good for someone who regularly hits lower in the order. However, there is a huge scope for improvement.
With Ashwin’s ability to critically analyze the game and become stronger, we could see a renewed Ashwin take his all-round game to the next level in South Africa next December. Until then, he will seek to continue to dominate in his home country and his favorite hunting ground – the West Indies.
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