Visakhapatnam: He has silenced all his critics with his exemplary appetite for wickets. Chennai off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has become the fastest Indian bowler to take 350 wickets in Test matches.
That puts him in the same league as Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan. Both reached the landmark in their 66th Test. He has also tripped Anil Kumble, who previously held the record, having reached the milestone in 77 Tests. Harbhajan Singh, who took some time to take off, had taken 83 wickets to reach the landmark.
The melting point came when Ashwin dismissed Theunis de Bruyn on Day 5 of the 1st Test between India and South Africa in Visakhapatnam. That makes it eight wickets in a match, including a seven-wicket haul in the first innings.
For the trivia-minded, this is the 5th time he picked up 7 wickets in an innings in Test cricket. In fact, Ashwin may have reached the target earlier but for the fact that he had warmed the bench in the two-Test series in the West Indies in August-September, when Ravindra Jadeja was picked instead.
Stressing he doesn't like missing out on cricket, R Ashwin came up with a tongue-in-cheek rejoinder to a reporter's question during a press conference on Friday.
"For starters, I have two kids who don't sleep....who don't sleep all that well in nights. Jokes apart, I felt every time I watched a game on TV, I felt like I wanted to play the game and I was missing out.
I mean it's very natural. I think everybody goes through it. I generally tried to do a few other things in my life as well. Books, a bit of archaeology work, stuff like that. I enjoyed it," Ashwin had said.
Ashwin’s graph started climbing after 25 Tests; in fact, he has bowled fewer overs per Test. Perhaps it is more to do with his strike rate, as he has cleaned up sides faster than any spinner since World War II, says one analyst.
Ahead of the first Test, skipper Virat Kohli had said that Ashwin remains India’s option in home conditions. Talking about his preparation, Ashwin said: "I want to keep it as straight forward and simple as possible.
I want to be as prepared as possible, trying to tick all the boxes ahead of a game, trying to be in the best possible mental and physical space getting into a match.
"All these are things that I play inside my head while getting into a game," added the wily off-spinner.