Nine years and 110 days after he made his debut against the West Indies back in 2011, Ravichandran Ashwin reached the landmark with Jofra Archer’s wicket in the 24th over on Day Two of the fourth Test match at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad on Thursday last. In doing so, he is currently the 16th highest wicket-taker in the game and has a long way to go before he’s done.
The last 12 months have been phenomenal for the Tamil Nadu spinner as he went about picking 39 wickets in just seven Test matches, 13 of those coming on the tour of New Zealand last year and 26 between the tour of Australia and the series against England taking place now. “It feels amazing actually (to reach 400 Test wickets). The entire stadium stood up and clapped for me. Pleased it happened in the winning cause. I can’t really get a grip of what has happened in the last 2-3 months. It has been a dreamy run and a fairy-tale,” he said.
Such has been the pace at which he’s gone about getting to the coveted milestone, that when India’s Test series in Australia started in December last year, Nathan Lyon was on 390 wickets and Ashwin on 365 - both in the race to 400. Lyon is currently at 399 while Ashwin has already zoomed past the mark.
For a bowler perennially under the spotlight, especially given the debate on the skewed ratio between his wickets at home and abroad, Ashwin certainly took it upon himself to silence them all. It’s been a long way off since that South African sojourn, where he had gone wicketless for more than 35 overs and the then familiar shadow of doubt would painfully loom every now and then, especially when India played outside Asia.
The fastest to reach 250, 300 and 350 wickets in Test cricket, Ashwin was showered with praise by his teammates and the opposition after the Test in Ahmedabad. “He’s among India’s greatest match-winners ever and this is a tremendous achievement,” opener Rohit Sharma said while England captain Joe Root too applauded the offspinner for reaching the landmark. Skipper Kohli urged the cricketing fraternity to take notice of the off-spinner’s achievements, calling him a modern day legend.
A slight change in action; an attempt to rediscover his stock ball; being vocal about the perceivable changes he sought in the game - lifting the seam of the SG ball, for instance; speaking up for his teammates and his team management’s gameplan - like the recent debate over home advantage, has kept Ashwin more involved in the game than merely as a bowler.
His batting, of course, being the cherry on that cake and those crucial knocks - in Australia and Chennai - have put him on the proverbial pedestal reserved for world class all-rounders. “I felt like a hero,” he said after the win in the second Test at Chennai, his home, where he was cheered by the local crowds in what turned out to be an exemplary performance.