As Ravichandran Ashwin starts his 50th Test match, the statistics from his short career could be a window into the player he could become.
Ashwin is the quickest to get to 250 wickets, taking only 45 Tests, and as a result his fairly meteoric ascent career puts him way ahead of any Indian bowler before him. In fact, the off-spinner’s wicket taking habit puts him in the same league of the greatest spinners of all-time.
Although, he’s the fastest to get to 250 wickets (in terms of matches), he took the same number of innings as Muttiah Muralitharan to get there.
Muralitharan’s abilities with the ball get better as his career progresses and the usage of his ‘Doosra’ made him kryptonite to batsman. By the end of his career, he was averaging over six wickets a Test match. Ashwin’s efficiency is not far behind and is only superseded by Muralitharan amongst the spinners.
Ashwin takes nearly six wickets at each Test match he plays. Although he’s only 49 Test matches in, his efficiency takes him past the highest wicket taking spinners.
His career could go one of three ways. At this stage of his career, his ability to take wickets is better than any of the all-time great spin bowlers. Most of them had a natural progression and became more efficient. Warne, Kumble and Herath for example had this incremental improvement. However, Muralitharan’s leap was herculean and perhaps why he left his competition behind. However, Harbhajan Singh who earlier in his career was a wicket taking machine dropped gradually with time.
Although Ashwin is poised to do wonders with the ball, he’s also tasted success relatively later than Warne, Kumble and Muralitharan.
All these players started early in their early twenties and demonstrated longevity in the game playing for nearly two decades.
Ashwin will be 31 in two months. Though spinners tend to play much longer than other bowlers, he would still need to catch up in order to be in the same league as Warne, Kumble and Murali.
Most of these players found another gear in their 30s, so Ashwin would need to work twice as hard to reach them. At the moment, he’s inched ahead of Kumble and is catching up on Warne. Muralitharan seems like a distant dream, but not an impossible one.