All-rounder in the making?

All of two and a half Tests young, the 25-year-old has already taken 18 wickets including two five-wicket hauls, and conjured a spectacular hundred on Friday afternoon to become the first Indian to take five wickets in an innings and make a century in the same Test on Indian soil.

In all, just two other Indians – Vinoo Mankad and Polly Umrigar – had achieved that feat before Ashwin joined them.

To many, Ashwin’s exploits with the bat at the Wankhede came as a surprise, even though he has two first-class centuries and an average in excess of 34. Of course, not many are aware that he has opened the batting for India under-17 – once – and that he started off as a batsman before switching to off-spin.

“In a lot of ways, his career is quite similar to Anil Kumble’s,” said Woorkeri Raman, the former India opener and Tamil Nadu coach when Ashwin burst on to the scene. “Like Anil, Ashwin too began as a batsman before going on to become a specialist spinner. I don’t think enough was done to nurture and develop Anil’s batting. I hope Ashwin’s batting is allowed to develop because everyone knows that India are desperately looking for an all-rounder.

“I am not suggesting, yet, that Ashwin is the answer, but he has already shown what he is capable of with the bat,” added the current Bengal coach. “It will be well worth grooming him. Ashwin could be the bowling all-rounder India has been on the look-out for.”

Ashwin’s was a brilliantly orthodox innings full of dazzling strokes and excellent use of the feet. Admittedly, the pitch didn’t hold too many terrors, but to score a Test century batting at number eight, especially with India having their backs to the wall, is no mean feat.

“I did not set targets when I walked out to bat, but after the first few minutes, I knew I would do well under these conditions,” said Ashwin. “The situation demanded a partnership, and I am glad I was able to contribute.”

Ashwin said he had felt the need to have a knock before the day’s play. “My wrists were a bit loose in the morning, I felt I needed a knock in the morning. That helped me.”

On 84 when Pragyan Ojha joined him, Ashwin had a long wait on 99 as the left-arm spinner played out a maiden against Fidel Edwards. “To be honest, I was more nervous when I was on 49! Once that was achieved, I knew it was only a question of waiting for the loose delivery. I was pleased with the way I timed the ball.”

Unique league

Indians with century and five wickets in an innings in the same Test.

* V Mankad vs England (184 and 5/196) at Lord’s, 1952.
* Polly Umrigar vs West Indies (172 not out and 5/107) at Port of Spain, 1961-62.
* R Ashwin vs West Indies (5/156 and 103) at Mumbai, 2011.

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