What’s the story?
From a young, lanky off-spinner waiting to grab his opportunity at the turn of the decade to currently being the spearhead of the Indian spin attack, Ravichandran Ashwin’s journey has been gradual yet emphatic. With someone like Harbhajan Singh in the team, it would have been very difficult for a budding off-spinner to carve a niche for himself. Ashwin managed to displace Harbhajan completely.
Comparisons between the two are understandable, and several former cricketers have come out in the open to have their say on who’s a better tweaker. Shivlal Yadav, who helped Indian spin transition after the collapse of the famed quartet, personally rates Ashwin higher than Harbhajan.
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In case you didn’t know…
Ashwin, whose claim to fame was the IPL’s opening seasons, where he flourished under the tutelage of MS Dhoni, made his international debut in 2010, at a time when Harbhajan Singh was expected to carry the burden of the spin attack on his shoulders. Anil Kumble having departed a couple of seasons back and no domestic spinner having made enough impact to be given a long run.
However, Harbhajan’s fading form, coupled with Ashwin’s repeated success, gave him an assured start in the Indian team in all formats over the years. With no competition to displace his numero uno status, Ashwin continued to flourish.
The heart of the matter
The 60-year old Yadav, who featured in 35 Tests for India, believes that Ashwin is a complete bowler who has mastered the art of delivering variations, especially the straighter deliveries. He said he rates Ashwin higher than Harbhajan because of the way the 30-year old flights the ball, bringing in more loop into his deliveries, which is remarkable considering his height.
Although the offie has been a revelation at home, there has always been a question mark over his performances abroad. Yadav, however, defended Ashwin, saying that he hasn’t been as lucky overseas, but has definitely bowled just as well as he does at home.
Ashwin will now move with the rest of the team to Ranchi, the venue of the third match of the series, set to host its first international Test fixture. In the series, Ashwin has already picked up 15 wickets, joined most with Australia’s Steve O’Keefe.
Although Ashwin has been one of the primary reasons for India’s continued Test success, he still needs to improve his credentials as a bowler across different playing conditions. His home and away averages still need some gap-bridging, although, being the clever bowler that he is, coupled with the immense confidence he has on his own ability, a much improved performance in the next overseas tour won’t come as a surprise.