In all the hectic proceedings over the two days of action in Motera for the third Test between India and England, there was not much time to pause and reflect on details. It was like a not-so-well-organised case of dominoes falling... once the first one fell, and the second, and then the third, you were only looking to see how far the end was coming. Especially at the start of the second day, you would not be alone thinking, while watching the flurry of wickets, that this match was heading for a two-day finish.

And so it did. The shortest Test match completed with a result (in terms of overs bowled) since 1935. A grand total of 140.2 overs. Thirteen wickets on day one. Seventeen wickets on day two. Before you could make sense of what was going on, it was over. India took a 2-1 lead and Virat Kohli rightly said it was a bizarre match, one that was unique in all the ones he has been a part of.

R Ashwin becomes second quickest bowler of all time to pick up 400 Test wickets

But in that rush of adrenaline, where there was not much time to analyse the finer points, it is worth looking back at two dismissals in England’s either innings. Ashwin Ravichandran to Ollie Pope.

In the first innings, going around the wicket, Ashwin had the England middle order batsman hopping around the crease. After a ball that turned into him from that angle, the Indian spinner got one to go straight on and the off-stump was disturbed. In the second innings, Ashwin got a similar result but from over the wicket. Delivering from close to the stumps, the ball drifted away after release, pitched and went straight on. On a pitch where there was so much turn available, it took special skill to prevent one coming back sharply from that angle. It was not a carrom ball either, just the way he released it made it impossible for Pope.

Screenshot courtesy BCCI.TV match centre

India's leading wicket-takers in Test cricket

Player Mat Inns Wkts Ave SR 5 10
Kumble 132 236 619 29.65 65.9 35 8
Kapil Dev 131 227 434 29.64 63.9 23 2
Harbhajan 103 190 417 32.46 68.5 25 5
Ashwin 77 144 401 24.95 53.0 29 7
Zaheer 92 165 311 32.94 60.4 11 1

It was the kind of mastery that took Ashwin into the 400-wicket club in Test cricket, quicker than any other Indian – just 77 matches. In fact, only Muttiah Muralitharan has reached the landmark in fewer Test matches than Ashwin now. That is elite company in the game’s longest format.

(Note: Scroll right or swipe across to view all the columns on the tables below)

Test matches taken to reach 400 wickets

Player Opposition Ground Match Date Time since debut Mat
Muralitharan (SL) v Zimbabwe Galle 12 Jan 2002 9y 137d 72
Ashwin (IND) v England Ahmedabad 24 Feb 2021 9y 110d 77
Hadlee (NZ) v India Christchurch 2 Feb 1990 17y 0d 80
Steyn (SA) v Bangladesh Dhaka 30 Jul 2015 10y 225d 80
Herath (SL) v Pakistan Abu Dhabi 28 Sep 2017 18y 6d 84
Kumble (IND) v Australia Bengaluru 6 Oct 2004 14y 58d 85
McGrath (AUS) v Pakistan Sharjah 19 Oct 2002 8y 341d 87
Warne (AUS) v England The Oval 23 Aug 2001 9y 233d 92
Akram (PAK) v Sri Lanka Colombo (SSC) 14 Jun 2000 15y 141d 96
Harbhajan (IND) v West Indies Roseau 6 Jul 2011 13y 103d 96

Ashwin is now the sixth spinner to enter the 400-club in Test cricket after Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, Rangana Herath and Harbhajan Singh. At this stage of his career, his average and strike rate are bettered only by Muralitharan in that group.

Spinners to take 400 Test wickets

Player Mat Inns Wkts Ave SR 5 10
Muralitharan 133 230 800 22.72 55.0 67 22
Warne 145 273 708 25.41 57.4 37 10
Kumble 132 236 619 29.65 65.9 35 8
Herath 93 170 433 28.07 60.0 34 9
Harbhajan 103 190 417 32.46 68.5 25 5
Ashwin  77 144 401 24.95 53.0 29 7

To truly understand how elite Ashwin has been at the rate at which he has picked up wickets, one has to only look at where he stands at different milestones. He is the quickest among Indian bowlers to reach 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 350 and 400 Test wickets. And in world cricket, he is in the top 10 for each of those landmarks, even topping the chart for 250, 300 and 350 wickets. Right from the start of his Test career, he has kept pace with the best of the best and has not let up.

Ashwin's Test career landmarks

Wicket No. Batsman Opp Ground When Matches taken (Rank) Matches for record-holder Next fastest among Indians
50 Compton v ENG Ahmedabad Nov 2012 9 (Joint 8th) 10 (Kumble)
100 Sammy v WI Mumbai Nov 2013 18 (6th) 16  20 (Prasanna)
150 Tahir v SA Mohali Nov 2015 29 (Joint 5th) 24 32 (Jadeja)
200 Williamson v NZ Kanpur Sep 2016 37 (3rd) 33 44 (Jadeja)
250 Mushfiqur v BAN Hyderabad Feb 2017 45 (1st) - 55 (Kumble)
300 Gamage v SL Nagpur Nov 2017 54 (1st) - 66 (Kumble)
350 de Bruyn v SA Vizag Oct 2019 66 (Joint 1st) 66 77 (Kumble
400 Archer v ENG Ahmedabad Feb 2021 77 (2nd) 72 85 (Kumble)
Stats courtesy ESPNCricinfo (Table by

Ashwin’s Test career:
For 50 wickets: Joint 8th-fastest (9 Tests)
100: 6th fastest (18 Tests)
150: Joint 5th-fastest (29 Tests)
200: 3rd fastest (37 Tests)
250: Fastest (45 Tests)
300: Fastest (54 Tests)
350: Joint-fastest (66 Tests)
400: 2nd fastest (77 Tests)

In an interview at the end of the third Test, on the day he reached his landmark with the wicket of Jofra Archer, Ashwin was asked whether if this was the best he has bowled in his career.

“This question has been asked quite a few times in my career,” he told the broadcasters Star Sports in an interview.

“In 2015-16 people were asking me the same thing when I went through that lovely phase in 15-16-17. And now people are asking the same. One thing’s for sure – I’ve always looked to improve and every time I’ve thought I’ve bowled well, I’ve always found another gear. So I’ll not be surprised if I surpass myself in the future as well.”

The numbers suggest that in the current season, Ashwin is operating close to his best phase that he enjoyed from 2015 onwards.

Ashwin called this run of form over the last three months a fairytale ride, as there was a good chance that he might not have been in the Adelaide Test XI for India had Ravindra Jadeja been fully fit.

“When I landed in Australia, the first session of practice in Sydney was quite interesting,” he said. “I thought I was bowling really well during the IPL as well - and when I reached Australia, both Virat and Ravi bhai were having a chat with me about how I should get my batting going, because both of them thought they had seen something happening in my bowling which looked really special.

“I don’t know what they thought or what they saw or what they felt, but they thought I was bowling really well. And you know, during the lockdown as well, I worked a lot on my fitness. On wanting to get my body ready for the next three-four years. Because you know this body is ageing by the moment, as we’re talking... so all those things started to pay rewards, I lost about seven-eight kilos through the lockdown. I just think from Australia onwards things have looked upwards for me.”

Ashwin's stats under various captains

Captain Mat Inns Wkts Ave Econ SR 5 10
Dhoni 22 40 109 28.77 2.88 59.8 9 2
Sehwag 1 2 5 53.40 3.65 87.6 0 0
Kohli 50 94 271 22.82 2.79 49.0 20 5
Rahane 4 8 16 26.06 2.50 62.5 0 0

Ashwin's Test stats based on host country

Mat Inns Wkts Ave SR 5 10
in India 46 89 278 22.19 48.3 23 6
in Australia 10 18 39 42.15 86.2 0 0
in South Africa 3 6 7 46.14 101.5 0 0
in England 6 9 14 32.92 75.0 0 0
in Bangladesh 1 2 5 19.00 37.2 1 0
in Sri Lanka 6 12 38 21.57 41.1 3 1
in West Indies 4 7 17 23.17 46.2 2 0
in New Zealand 1 1 3 33.00 58.0 0 0

“It’s unbelievable,” Indian captain Virat Kohli, under whom Ashwin has a sensational record, said in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

“We all need to stand up and take notice of Ashwin’s contribution to Indian cricket. I told him that from now on, I’ll call him ledge [short for legend]. Getting 400 is an outstanding achievement, and still so many games and years to go for India. In Test match cricket, he is surely a modern legend and we’re just lucky to have him in our team.”

Indeed, if Ashwin continues at this rate of taking around five wickets per Test on an average, the next milestone of 450 and 500 wickets are within his reach. As things stand, he is just off the pace with Muralitharan’s record by a matter of five Tests and that is a great place to be for him to keep climbing the leading wicket-takers tally.

Statistics courtesy ESPNCricinfo Statsguru