Ravi Ashwin @500: India’s go-to cricketer for all seasons

At 37, the thinking man’s off spinner is still learning and experimenting

Ravichandran Ashwin (photo: @BCCI/X)
Ravichandran Ashwin (photo: @BCCI/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Love him or hate him, but you can’t keep Ravichandran Ashwin down. The senior off-spinner has had his share of critics for not being as successful abroad — or his radical thinking over the years — but those present in Rajkot on Friday, 16 February, must have been unanimous that nobody deserved the 500-wicket landmark in less than 100 Tests more than him.

The sense of anticipation was there all along in the previous Test at Vizag, where he was stranded on 499 wickets on the fourth day when India completed a 106-run win to bounce back in the series.

The wait finally ended when skipper Rohit Sharma brought him on after tea on the second day to provide a breakthrough as openers Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley started their reply on the front foot and like so many occasions over the years, Ashwin responded by luring the later to go for a sweep and getting caught by Rajat Patidar at short fine leg.

At 37 years, the thinking man’s cricketer was the second fastest to reach the landmark after Muttiah Muralitharan (98 Tests) and ahead of Anil Kumble — the highest wicket-taker for India with 619 wickets or the master Shane Warne. What’s more, he is only the ninth bowler to reach this awe-inspiring number — which is certainly a tribute to his longevity, perseverance, cricket sense and the heart to experiment with his craft.

If Ashwin and Australia’s Nathan Lyon (currently on 517 wickets) are the two elder statesmen of sorts in their similar craft of off-spin, the later said last December that he was waiting for the Indian to reach the 500 mark soon. ‘’I have got nothing but respect for Ashwin for the way he has gone about it. There’s an 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,’’ the Australian said. James Anderson, Lyon and Ashwin are the only active bowlers to have more than 400 wickets in Test cricket.

Ever since taking a bow in Test cricket in end-2011, Ashwin has been one of the biggest matchwinners for India in the post-Kumble and Harbhajan Singh era and it’s quite in sync with his strike rate that he has scaled 500 wickets in less than 100 Tests.

While Murali had reached 500 wickets in only 87 matches, Ashwin did so in 98 Tests after being the fastest Indian bowler to reach 50, 100, 150, 200, 350, 400 and 450 Test wickets, not to speak of being the fastest in the world to reach 250 and 300 Test wickets.

While Ashwin reached 50 Test wickets in nine matches, he reached 100 wickets in 18 matches, 150 in 29 matches and 200 in 37 matches. He then set a world record by reaching 250 wickets in 45 matches and 300 wickets in 54 matches. The 350th Test wicket came in 66 Tests and then he took 11 more matches to get to 400 wickets in only his 77th Test match – while 450 wickets in his 89th Test.

‘’I am very happy for him, I have been playing with him for years,’’ remarked Ravindra Jadeja, his partner-in-crime on the eve of Rajkot Test. ‘’I thought he would get it in the first Test match, but it’s okay, it is destiny that he will get it here in my hometown.’’

Ashwin, who has had 34 five-wicket hauls and eight 10-wicket match hauls in his Test career, has 347 of his 500 wickets at home at the time of writing – a figure which often leads to a muted criticism that he had been more successful on the dust bowls of India in tandem with Jadeja and Axar Patel. There could be an iota of truth in this, but his hunger for success and improvement is something that deserves a huge bow.

An ICC Cricketer of the Year in 2016 and one of the nominees in 2021, Ashwin left no stone unturned to develop his batting skills and has five Test centuries to show for it – largely in the company of tailenders.

Speaking in an interview about a possible lack of allrounders in the team ahead of the World Test Championship (WTC) final in 2021, former Indian opener and TV pundit W.V. Raman told this writer: ‘’I don’t understand the fuss about lack of allrounders – we have two of them in Ashwin and Jadeja.’’

A big hand, then, to Ashwin – India’s second 500-plus wicket taker and a man for all seasons!


Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka) - 800 wickets

Shane Warne (Australia) - 708 wickets

James Anderson (England) - 695* wickets

Anil Kumble (India) - 619 wickets

Stuart Broad (England) - 604 wickets

Glenn McGrath (Australia) - 563 wickets

Courtney Walsh (West Indies) - 519 wickets

Nathan Lyon (Australia) - 517* wickets

R Ashwin (India) - 500*

*Denotes active cricketers

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