India coach Rahul Dravid on Monday drew attention to the manner in which Ravichandran Ashwin has 'grown' and 'evolved' into a champion off-spinner, who has now become the country's third-highest wicket-taker in Tests.
Ashwin dismissed Tom Latham to claim his 418th Test wicket and go past Harbhajan Singh on the fifth and final day of the opening Test against New Zealand here. He is now only behind Anil Kumble and Kapil Dev in the overall standings.
"I think it's a phenomenal achievement. I think you know Harbhajan Singh was a really fine bowler, someone I played a lot of cricket with; terrific bowler for India and what Ashwin has done, to be able to go past him in just 80 Test matches is a phenomenal achievement," Dravid said at the post-match media conference.
The legendary Anil Kumble tops the chart with 619 scalps and is followed by India's first World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev, who has a total of 434 wickets under his name.
"Ashwin is one of those guys who has been an absolute match-winner for India, even today you saw on this difficult wicket. The way he pulled us back into the game on that third morning, with that spell of 11 overs, was absolutely phenomenal. And then today just to keep us alive in the game, constantly be threatening on wickets like this is a tribute to his skills and ability," Dravid added.
Ashwin drew level with Harbhajan (417 in 103 games), who remains one of India's finest spinners, when he took the wicket of New Zealand opener Will Young towards the end of the fourth day's play. The tweaker then dismissed Latham to surpass Harbhajan and claim the third spot.
Dravid said the Tamil Nadu off-spinner has evolved over the years.
"He has just evolved, he has just kept growing. He is one of those guys who keeps thinking about the game, keeps changing, keeps evolving, that's why he (has) got where he has.
"You don't achieve what Ashwin has achieved without growing and improving and evolving. It is a pleasure to have someone like him in the dressing room and to work (with). I am really happy for him," signed off Dravid, one of India's greatest batters.