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'Modern-day legend' R Ashwin's journey to 400 wickets: Left-handers' nightmare, new-ball specialist

Trapping Jofra Archer in front of middle, in the second innings in Ahmedabad on Thursday, Ashwin reached the milestone of 400 Test wickets - fourth by an Indian, 16th overall, and sixth by a spinner.

Aratrick Mondal Aratrick Mondal
New Delhi Updated on: February 26, 2021 14:14 IST
R Ashwin
Image Source : BCCI

R Ashwin

In a match that looked like an extended highlights reel, Ravichandran Ashwin, the 'modern-day legend' as hailed by Virat Kohli, had his moment in the sun. Trapping Jofra Archer in front of middle, in the second innings in Ahmedabad on Thursday, Ashwin reached the milestone of 400 Test wickets - fourth by an Indian, 16th overall, and sixth by a spinner. 

ROAD TO 400 TEST WICKETS

Ashwin took 21242 balls to reach the milestone, which made him the fourth-fastest among all those 16 bowlers, with only Dale Steyn, Richard Hadlee, and Glenn McGrath having reached the landmark in fewer deliveries. He is also the fastest among the six spinners, with Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath, placed second, having taken 23835 deliveries to take his 400th wicket. 

In terms of matches, only Muttiah Muralitharan reached the feat faster than Ashwin. The Sri Lankan picked his 400th Test wicket in his 72nd match, five fewer than Ashwin's tally. In terms of innings bowled, Ashwin, with 144 innings to the milestone, is the third quickest after Muralitharan (117) and Hadlee (140). And in terms of time taken to reach the landmark from the debut Test, Ashwin, who took 9 years and 110 days, stands second after Glenn McGrath, who took 8 years and 341 days to take his 400th wicket.

Among these 16 bowlers, Ashwin finds himself among four pacers when their strike rate and average are compared at the time of the feat. Only six have a strike rate less than 55 and an average greater than equal to 25 - Steyn (22.5, 41.6), Hadlee (22.1, 50.8), McGrath (21.6, 51.4), Ambrose (21, 54.2), Wasim Akram (22.8, 52.6) and Ashwin (25, 53). 

India Tv - Only six have a strike rate less than 55 and an average greater than equal to 25

Image Source : DATAWRAPPER

Only six have a strike rate less than 55 and an average greater than equal to 25

DOMINATING SINCE DEBUT

Since his Test debut in November 2011, Ashwin is the highest wicket-taker, standing 10 ahead of second-placed Nathan Lyon, who until, the start of the Australia series in December last year was the leading wicket-taker. With 382 wickets to his name, Lyon, along with Stuart Broad, stood miles ahead of Ashwin, who picked 365 to his name until then. Lyon now has 391 and Broad has 385. Among all spinners, who have taken at least 150 wickets in the given period, no one has a better strike rate than Ashwin while his average of 24.95 is the second-best after Ravindra Jadeja's 24.32. Ashwin also tops the chart with most five-wicket hauls, 29 to his name, which also places him seventh in the all-time Test history, tied with McGrath and one behind James Anderson. 

India Tv - In terms of time taken to reach the landmark from the debut Test, Ashwin, who took 9 years and 110 days, stands second after Glenn McGrath, who took 8 years and 341 days to take his 400th wicket.

Image Source : BCCI

In terms of time taken to reach the landmark from the debut Test, Ashwin, who took 9 years and 110 days, stands second after Glenn McGrath, who took 8 years and 341 days to take his 400th wicket.

LEFT-HANDER'S NIGHTMARE

It is always difficult for a left-hander to face an off-spinner, who turns the ball away from such batters, against a righty, for whom the ball will spin into him. But no one in Test history has more left-hander dismissals than Ashwin. En route to his 29th career fi-fer which he picked in the second Chennai Test, Ashwin became the first bowler in Test history to dismiss 200 left-handers, with the tally now standing 205 after the Ahmedabad Test, implying a share of 51.1 per cent of such dismissals. No other bowler, who has at least taken 200 career wickets, has such a large share of left-handers in their dismissal list. In fact, his supremacy against this batting variety has resulted in how India have used him over the years. Almost 45 per cent of his career deliveries have been against left-handers and both his average and strike are better against lefties (20.2 and 46.7) than righties (32.2 and 60.8).

INDIA'S NEW-BALL SPECIALIST

It is a rare talent for spinners to dominate with the new ball, but such has been Ashwin's prowess, as he gets the ball to drift with varying pace and intelligent use of the crease. Since his debut, Ashwin has taken 60 wickets with the new ball (between overs 1 to 15) at a strike rate of 46.67 and strike rate of 21.67. Among all 13 bowlers who have at least bowled 2500 deliveries with the new ball in the given period, Ashwin's strike rate is the best, the only bowler to have it under 50, while his average is only behind Vernon Philander's 21.09. Not to forget, Ashwin is the only spinner on that list, and tops the likes of Anderson, Starc, and Steyn. Ashwin is also India's highest wicket-taker with the new ball with Ishant Sharma being next on the list with 50 wickets.

India Tv - Comparing SRs for new-ball bowlers since Ashwin's debut

Image Source : DATAWRAPPER

Comparing SRs for new-ball bowlers since Ashwin's debut

25 of those dismissals have come in the first innings where he averages an impressive 16.04 with a strike rate of 41.12, both of which are the best among bowlers who have delivered at least 1000 balls with the new ball, and the only bowler to have both under 20 and 45 respectively. The closest to his tally is Kemar Roach with 35 wickets at 21.06 and a strike rate of 45.91. The relative numbers are comparatively weaker in the second innings where he picked the remaining 35 wickets at 25.69 and a strike rate of 50.3.

TERROR AT HOME

One of the key reasons behind visitors finding it difficult to play in India over the last decade has been the inability to negate the threat named Ashwin. A sign of a champion bowler is to make the most of the suitable conditions and Ashwin, over the course of his decade-old career, has grown into an imperious player that visitors would want to see off. No spinner has a superior strike rate than Ashwin at home among bowlers who have at least taken 150 wickets at home. He takes a wicket every 48 balls. And only two spinners average less than his 22.19 - Muralitharan (19.56) and Ravindra Jadeja (21.06). Ashwin's wicket tally of 278 at home is the most by any bowler who has a strike rate and average of under 50 and 25 respectively. 

Top wickets-takers at home (SR less than 50, Avg less than 25)

Player Mat Wkts Ave SR Fi-Fer
R Ashwin (INDIA) 46 278 22.19 48.3 23
DW Steyn (SA) 52 261 21.62 40.2 16
M Ntini (SA) 53 249 24.04 45.2 12
DK Lillee (AUS) 44 231 23.73 49.9 15
FS Trueman (ENG) 47 229 20.04 44.9 14
AA Donald (SA) 38 177 21.64 45 12
RGD Willis (ENG) 41 176 23.5 46.1 10
Imran Khan (PAK) 38 163 19.2 47 10
Waqar Younis (PAK) 33 162 20.29 38.7 11
MD Marshall (WI) 31 157 20.06 42.4 8

IMPROVING AS A TRAVELLER

The only glitch in Ashwin's illustrious career has been his performance overseas. In 20 Tests he has played in the SENA countries, Ashwin has picked 63 wickets at 40.11 with a dismissal every 84 deliveries, which significantly contradicts is stellar career record, let alone his numbers at home. Among visiting spinners to this country ( excluding non-SENA bowlers), Ashwin's average is only better than Herath's 42.75.

But Ashwin has improved over the last three years. Since 2018, when India have toured SENA nations five times, Ashwin in 11 Tests has averaged 29.97, picking 39 wickets. In fact, in his last tour, to Australia last month, he outbowled Lyon, taking 12 wickets at 28.83.

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