Ashwin races to 300 club

Off-spinner fastest to get there

Ashwin races to 300 club

It's rare that a Test match is going on in India and R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja go wicketless. Much less, they get to bowl only 10 overs between them in the entire match.

With green-top laid out for the opening Test against Sri Lanka in Kolkata, pace bowlers ruled the roost. Back in the familiar environs, however, Ashwin and Jadeja were in the thick of action again, splitting 13 wickets between them as India annihilated Sri Lanka by an innings and 239 runs to take 1-0 lead in the three-Test series here on Monday, the fourth day of the Test.

Ashwin scalped four in each innings and in the process of claiming his eighth wicket in Lahiru Gamage, that also signaled India's thumping win, the off-spinner became the fastest 300 Test wickets – overtaking Dannis Lillee's record in 56 Tests.

Ashwin -- who recently declared that he would retire after reaching 618 wickets as a mark of his deep respect for Anil Kumble, India's highest Test wicket-taker at 619 – is also the fastest 250 (46 Tests) and second fastest to 200 (37). He is now India's fifth bowler to have taken 300 wickets after Kapil Dev (434), Kumble, Harbhajan Singh (417) and Zaheer Khan (311). He is also only the fourth off-spinner to join the 300-club which is led by Muttiah Muralitharan (800) and followed by Harbhajan and West Indies' Lance Gibbs (319).

While Ashwin had given glimpses of his potential greatness, his stock has risen exponentially in the last two years or so, especially from the one-off Test against Bangladesh in mid-2015. The 30-year-old had 119 wickets from 24 Tests at an average of 30.67 and a strike rate of 61.8 before the Bangladesh Test, figures that can be termed good but not impressive. Post the away series against Australia in 2014-15, he has been a different beast altogether. In 30 matches since then, he has more than doubled his tally, gathering 181 wickets at an average of 21.38 and a strike rate of 45.7.      

"Hats off to Ashwin, he's been, in the last maybe five-six years, one of the match-winners of the team," said Rohit Sharma after the match. "The way he's performed and the way he's brought the team back from difficult situations, hats off to him. I hope that he continues and wish him all the luck. He exactly knows what he's doing, and he works according to his plans, which I think works for him. It's always important that you stay within your limits and Ashwin is doing that," he observed.          

While there is no doubt that Ashwin has evolved a lot as a bowler in the last two years, both in terms of skills and the reading of the situations that have helped him develop into a match-winner that he is today, he has been greatly benefitted by the presence of Jadeja at the other end. The left-arm spinner may not have the same guile or variety, but by sustaining pressure created by Ashwin through his accuracy, he has perhaps helped the Tamil Nadu bowler become more effective than he would have without the support from the other end.

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