3rd Test: 500 wickets done and dusted now, and we've got a game hanging in the balance, says R. Ashwin

February 16, 2024
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Ravichandran Ashwin etched his name into cricket history as he joined the elite club of players with 500 Test wickets

Rajkot, Feb 16 (IANS) Veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin etched his name into cricket history as he joined the elite club of players with 500 Test wickets, becoming only the second Indian to achieve this remarkable feat. The 37-year-old maestro dismissed Zak Crawley for wicket number 500 during the third Test against England in Rajkot.

Besides Nathan Lyon and Muthiah Muralidaran, he is only the third off-spinner to reach the record. In terms of matches and deliveries, Ashwin reached the milestone the second fastest. Since making his Test debut in November 2011, Nathan Lyon is the only player who has claimed more wickets than Ashwin. Despite having played 26 more games than Ashwin, Lyon’s current total of 509 is only nine more than Ashwin’s tally.

Of all the aspects of Ashwin’s career, his record at home stands out the most, with 347 wickets at an average of 21.22 in 58 Tests. He will become just the fifth bowler, following Anil Kumble, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, and Muttiah Muralidaran, to reach 350 home wickets with three more wickets.

Reflecting on his remarkable journey, Ashwin attributed his success to the unwavering support of his father, whose unwavering dedication and sacrifices propelled him towards excellence. With a chuckle, Ashwin expressed his gratitude towards his father, acknowledging the countless heartaches endured while witnessing his son’s cricketing exploits.

“I would like to dedicate this to my father, he’s responsible for everything I’ve done in my life. He’s lived it through and had heart attacks every time I’ve played. I think his health has gone for a toss because he’s watched games of mine on TV and been a constant support for me,” said Ashwin after the end of the day’s play. “I’m sure he will be very happy today. But yeah, 500 wickets done and dusted now, and we’ve got a game hanging in the balance.”

Yet, Ashwin’s journey has not been devoid of challenges. Recalling the darkest phase of his career between 2018 and 2019, Ashwin candidly described it as a “bottomless pit”, marked by injuries, self-doubt, and a loss of love for the game. However, the unforeseen disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for introspection, leading Ashwin to rediscover his passion and purpose for playing cricket.

“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.

“Generally, I’m not someone who is fazed by the downs in life … when I’m down I don’t get beaten by it, I think about it, I want to come out of it, there’s always something to learn from bad days. But that was a really dark tunnel for me, and I don’t know what hit me and how I got placed there. Injuries followed, I had a couple of injures as a bowler, the adductor strain and all that,” he said.

“And when I thought it was all almost done, was when the world got hit by a pandemic and that gave me a really good reflection of where I stood in life, what I wanted to play for, and to find a new meaning of what this game stood for me. This game is all I love, and I think I had lost some of that love before that and I managed to discover it,” he added.

Amidst the trials and tribulations, Ashwin’s desire to excel remained unyielding, fuelled by his intrinsic drive to evolve as a cricketer. From the humble beginnings of club cricket in Chennai to the pinnacle of international success, Ashwin’s journey epitomizes the transformative power of dedication and perseverance.

As Ashwin basked in the glory of his 500th wicket, he emphasised the significance of rediscovering the joy of playing the game, a sentiment shared by cricketers who have weathered the highs and lows of a professional career. With newfound clarity and purpose, Ashwin continues to redefine the boundaries of excellence, leaving an indelible mark on the cricketing landscape.

On the field, Ashwin’s timely scalp of Zak Crawley provided a pivotal breakthrough for India. After England’s openers had responded to India’s first innings score of 445 with an 89-run stand in just 13 overs. He broke the partnership by having Crawley top-edging a sweep to Rajat Patidar at short fine leg.

England rode on an 88-ball hundred from Ben Duckett to end the second day on 207 for 2 in just 35 overs, trailing India by 238 runs.

“They are showing a lot of intent, playing like how they would play in a T20 or one-day game. Given us less time to think and also less labour,” Ashwin said of England’s aggressive batting. “Have to bowl good balls and expect one of those airy-fairy shots to go to hand.

“The surfaces we have played on in this Test series have enabled the batters to have a reasonable amount of time in the first three-four days. I expect this pitch to get tough on day five. Having said that we just need to hang in there and wheel away and exercise best disciplines like you would in Test cricket. England have found themselves in such situations before and we’ve found a way to pull ourselves back into the match,” he added.

With 34 five-wicket hauls and eight match hauls of ten or more, Ashwin’s illustrious career is a testament to his mastery of spin bowling and his enduring impact on the game. As he stands shoulder to shoulder with legends like Anil Kumble, who has 619 wickets, his legacy as one of India’s greatest offspinners is secure, leaving an indelible imprint on the annals of cricketing history.

–IANS/hs/bsk/

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