Even if the highest wicket- taker in the history of the game Muttiah Muralitharan has himself gone on record saying that if anyone can realistically break his record, it has to be Ravichandran Ashwin, and yet it is something very few can agree upon. 800 wickets in Test cricket is still looked at as an improbable record akin to landing on the moon kind of feat in the last century.
Ravichandran Ashwin usually comes across as a tough character on the cricket field. But then a sports person’s problems do not always necessarily start and end on the field of play. And often, even the toughest feels “crushed” under the weight of circumstances.
On the cusp of India’s Test series against South Africa, Ashwin has revealed how an athlete still needs to be looked after in all the cases.
The off-spinner, who has 427 Test victims to his name, also spoke of a phase between 2018 and 2020 when he contemplated quitting the game. “Between 2018 and 2020, I contemplated giving up the sport at various points. I thought, ‘I have put in a lot of effort, but it is not coming through’.
Ashwin: Race against time
Injuries have played a major role in Ashwin’s career so far, and being not fit enough is a reason cited by skipper Virat Kohli in overlooking him in recent times.
The lanky off-spinner feels he was not being backed as much as other injured players.
Despite the drawbacks, Ashwin is one of India’s finest performers in red-ball cricket, having eclipsed Harbhajan Singh recently to become the third-highest wicket-takers among the Indians in Tests.
Talent and enterprise are never a concern for someone who was the second quickest to 400 wickets in the history of the game. Yet, Ashwin’s career continues to be punctuated by uncertainties that are not directly his doing.
Ashwin is 35. So it’s not unnatural to start winding down the clock on his career. It is this inevitability that triggers the yearning to witness Ashwin in full tilt, on pitches tailor-made for seam bowling, against batting line-ups crammed with right-handers while defeating shaky selection logic that he isn’t quite handy as batting support and so the best spinner ought not to play.
Ashwin: Key in South Africa
The off-spinner might be going through a purple patch at the moment but things weren’t this rosy a couple of years back. In fact, he was so fed up with being ignored by team management that he wanted to quit the game.
Ashwin, who is currently in South Africa, is expected to lead the spin bowling attack in the upcoming three-match Test series, which kicks off with the traditional Boxing Day Test on December 26. Despite playing a limited number of games, the spin maestro has been in phenomenal form this year.
He is the only bowler to pick up more than 50 wickets in this calendar year and given his form, Virat Kohli would be hoping to see him weave the same magic as they begin their bid to win their maiden Test series on South African soil.
Ashwin remains one of the most honest and fearless cricketers of this era and has never shied away from talking about his state of mind, regardless of how good or bad his performance remains on the field.
Given his penchant to study and target the premier batsman of the opposition, one can be confident that Ashwin will have a big say on the bouncy South African wickets. Over the years he has played a crucial role in Indian wins in Tests, and this tour will be no different.