A little over two years after he made his debut against the West Indies at the Kotla in November 2011, R. Ashwin reached a milestone that he should be extremely proud of. And his 100 wickets have come from fewer Tests — only 18 — than any other Indian bowler.
On the first day of Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell Test at the Wankhede Stadium, the tall off-spinner dismissed left-handers Darren Bravo, Narsingh Deonarine and right-hander and skipper Darren Sammy.
Left-arm spinner Pargyan Ojha, of course, got more of the attention with a haul of five wickets in the dramatic West Indian slide, once again proving his worth on Indian wickets.
There was appreciable movement off the wicket for the seamers, and the spinners were also able to extract good, sometimes alarming, bounce.
E.A.S. Prasanna, S. Venkatraghavan, and Shivlal Yadav were the first of India’s successful off-spinners. They were of the classical mould with side-on actions.
Prasanna was really top-notch with his ability to be extremely deceptive, beating the batsmen in the air and off the wicket.
Yadav too impressed with his loop, while Venkatraghavan was flatter through the air and was deadly on certain kinds of wickets, and Ajit Wadekar deployed him with much success on the 1971 tour of the West Indies and England.
After Yadav’s exit, it took India a long time to find an off-spinner. Arshad Ayub and Rajesh Chouhan played specific roles for short periods of time, but it was the arrival of Harbhajan Singh in the late 1990s that gave India a potent off-spinner.
The Punjab off-spinner was, sort of, unconventional with a pronounced chest-on action, and Ashwin too developed himself in like manner.
Ashwin has attempted to bring in variations, and has often been criticised for experimenting too much.
However, he has responded to all that, delivering brilliant results on helpful Indian wickets.
He claimed 22 wickets in his debut series, but found wickets hard to come by in Australia. He took nine wickets at 62.78 there, but he was back among the wickets in the subsequent home series against New Zealand, England and Australia — although he did appear out of sorts in the second Test against England at the Wankhede.
The Tamil Nadu spinner came here with 97 wickets from 17 Tests, and high on confidence on the back of a second Test century at Kolkata. And, once the ball had lost its shine, he bowled like a champion and removed the dangerous-looking Bravo, who had made166 here two years ago.
He and Ojha increased their combined tally to 139 wickets and have proved to be the most successful spin-pair against the West Indies at home with 56 wickets.
At just 27, Ashwin, showing definite signs of a desire for more improvement, will be looking forward to the two-Test series in South Africa.