Ravichandran Ashwin’s bowling statistics certainly suggests that he is one among the all time great Indian spinners.
His performance has been impeccable since the 2015 World Cup. He was going through a phase just before the World Cup where match after match he would go wicket-less, but the way he has improved after the World Cup is really commendable. His off-spinners are spinning viscously and his line and length have been immaculate. Ashwin was fantastic against the Lankans and he is again showing his class against the Proteas in the ongoing Test series.
Ashwin’s awesome performance over the last 3-4 months has raised certain questions like: “Is he the best Indian off-spinner of the last decade?” or “Where does he stand as compared to Kumble or Harbhajan?”. Let us take a look into this matter and have an in-depth analysis!
Over the last 20 years, among the spinners who have represented India in International cricket, few can disagree that Ashwin, Harbhajan and Kumble will make the list of most successfuls. Who can forget Harbhajan’s hattrick against Australia in the Kolkata Test match? Anil Kumble’s 10 wicket haul in an innings against Pakistan are etched in the memories of all cricket lovers.
Anil Kumble is also India’s leading wicket-taker in Test matches. He has 619 scalps in the 132 Test matches at a stunning average of 29.65. Harbhajan Singh, too, has been a revelation over the years for the Indian team. He has a tally of 417 test wickets in the 103 Test matches that he had appeared for the Indian side.
On the other hand, Ashwin has taken 153 Test wickets in the 29 matches at an astounding average of 27.55. If we judge all three of them just on the basis of their bowling averages, then Ashwin wins the competition hands down, but a great bowler becomes a legend when he is successful in all conditions, in different pitches and against varying oppositions. Ashwin still has a lot to prove when it comes to bowling in overseas conditions.
Kumble is a legend because of his ability to pick up wickets in seaming as well as batsman friendly tracks. The variations that Kumble had are certainly worth admiration. He would bowl his flippers, out-swingers, in-swingers and vary his pace drastically when it came to bowling in Australia or England. The same bowler would emphasise more on his leg-spinners and googlies when it came to bowling in sub-continent conditions where the pitches are be suitable for spin bowling. Harbhajan Singh too had that ability to pick up wickets in conditions that were not ideal for spin bowling. The amount of bounce that he extracted from the Australian tracks was unbelievable.
Ashwin’s record suggests that he has struggled to pick up wickets outside India. India’s tour of Australia in the year 2011-12 was a disastrous tour for Ravi Ashwin as he managed to pick up only 9 wickets in three Test matches. Ashwin had a difficult time with the ball when India toured South Africa as he went wicket-less in the first Test match at Johannesburg. He had a very quiet tour of Sri Lanka in 2012 when he managed to pick up only 5 wickets in the five ODIs that he played. Ashwin did show his class when he toured England and was the leading wicket taker for India in that series.
On the whole, Ashwin has been a good bowler for India but he has a long way to go in order to match up to the stature of legends like Kumble and Harbhajan. He definitely will become a better bowler with experience and will pick up more wickets on flat tracks that have nothing for the spinners. India will hope that Ashwin continues to pick up more wickets and guide India to more series wins.
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