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Monday, November 27, 2017

Ashwin (300) stands tall and to understand - compare him with other elites

200 is a great number – more so, for the bowler – not many reach there – and today this man stood tall, reaching there to become the second fastest in the world and the fastest Indian to reach that landmark – Ravichandran Ashwin.  ~  read one of my recent posts (Sept 2016) and it is time to repeat almost the same words with some more spicy statistics – the man, the hero, Ravi Ashwin.

The carrom ball kissed the top of off-stump, dislodging the bails. Barring wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, hardly any of the Indian cricketers on the field even noticed. A review, however, finally put an end to Sri Lanka’s agony four-and-half-day-long agony.  It was no ordinary ball -   a rare milestone: putting R Ashwin ahead of Dennis Lillee as the fastest to claim 300 Test victims.  Apparently, though the occasion was too big, there was hardly any celebrations from the suave gentleman offie, maybe because the win had come so easy. Ashwin merely collected the stumps after his four-for helped India rout Sri Lanka by an innings and 239 runs, which equalled India’s record for their biggest Test win. India had thumped Bangladesh by an identical margin in 2007.

The win, that gave Kohli and Co. an unassailable 1-0 lead in the series, neither required too much time nor effort. It took just over a session and 40.3 overs for India to wrap up Lanka’s second innings for 166.

Again, I recall that Chepauk test, of that classy Gundappa Viswanath innings – Andy Roberts fearsome pace – and alongside a off-spinner Lance Gibbs chugging along, with not much of turn or fortune.  A well informed Triplicane mami told me that he was on the verge of a great record (had around 275 + wickets); she told me that one day, he could take 300 wickets and get past Fred Trueman’s record.  Gibbs went on to become the highest wicket taker ending at 309.  Though he was not as acclaimed as the pacers of that era, Lance Gibbs bowled well and ended up with   309 wickets in 79 Tests - including 18 five-fors - all the while conceding his runs at a staggering 1.99 per over.   He made his debut in Feb 1985 alongside – EDAS McMorris and IS Madray !

Then that match against Sri Lanka at Cuttack in 1987, on a treacherous track at Cuttack,  Krishnamachari Srikkanth used the early and ephemeral evenness of the track to compile a brisk 40 before becoming the first batsman to be bowled by a shooter.  Dilip Vengsarkar batted with phenomenal ease as he notched up his career-best score of 166. And Kapil Dev captured his 300th  wicket as Sri Lanka surrendered meekly to lose by an innings.  That was a crowning glory to the career that started in Faislabad, revealing that Indians too can bowl fast and hurry batsmen.  He was to reach greater heights, becoming the highest wicket taker of his time stopping at 434 ~ but, then, records are meant to be broken.

Now it is the turn of our own Ravichandran Ashwin to soar great.  He is now the fastest to claim 300 test wickets .  The Tamil Nadu all-rounder also became the fastest to 2000 runs and 300 wickets in Tests. Former New Zealand all-rounder Richard Hadlee was the previous record holder having achieved this feat in his 61st  Test.

At Nagpur, the Lankan top order just gifted away wickets. Their collapse started in the seventh over when Murali Vijay held on to a screamer at short leg to send back opener Dimuth Karunaratne.  Dasun Sanaka perished to a needless shot as he charged down to Ashwin.   An Ashwin straight ball was too much for Dilruwan Perera to handle as he was caught in front of the wicket. Herath too joined the procession as Ashwin claimed his 299th victim. Then in a way, it was competition on whether it would be 300 for Ash or 100 for Umesh Yadav.  Rest is history.

Ashwin who has now bagged  300 wickets (54 matches 101 innings 15636 balls; avg 26.07; economy 2.88) has scored 2051 test runs with 4 centuries.  Besides he has 150 ODI wickets and 52 T20 wickets.  Somehow this great is kept away from the scheme of ODI by Virat Kohli and the present think tank of selectors and whether he would be picked for ODI World Cup 2019 remains a big Q !!

The off-spinner was all humility when asked to comment on the enviable record, saying any comparison with the greats would be unfair. "We are a bit more blessed than the other greats. We have technology to help. We have help with our fitness. So we shouldn't compare," he said after the top-ranked hosts wrapped up the win inside four days to stamp their class. "I really hope I can go on to double these 300 wickets. I've only played 50-odd Tests," said the 31-year-old, who finished with a match haul of 8-130.
This man is great, shrewd and yet humble – it might look he just ambles as he starts his run up and delivers  -  but he has been delivering lot consistently and at a high class helping India win. 

There are 30 odd great bowlers in that elite club and here is what it is at the top. Ravi Ashwin (54); Dennis Lillee 56; Muthiah Muralitharan 58; Richard Hadlee 61; Malcolm Marshall 61; Dale Steyn 61; Shane Warne 63; Alan Donald 63; Glenn Mcgrath 64; Fred Trueman 65 and Waqar Younis 65 ~ and now you can compare and analyse for yourself. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

27th Nov 2017. 

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