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.
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.
India's leading wicket-takers in Test cricket
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
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)||6||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)|
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
Ashwin's Test stats based on host country
|in South Africa||3||6||7||46.14||101.5||0||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.