Ashwin adds another feather

Offie beats Lillee, becomes fastest to 250 wkts

Ashwin adds another feather
India’s biggest match-winner with the ball over the last few years, R Ashwin has been raising the bar constantly in a career that appears destined for greatness. On Sunday, he set a new benchmark, becoming the fastest to capture 250 Test wickets.

Playing his 45th game, the 30-year-old Tamil Nadu off-spinner surpassed Australian Dennis Lillee, taking three games fewer than the fast bowling great when he dismissed Mushfiqur Rahim. “Good to have the record out of the way,” said Ashwin at the end of the day’s play.

“It was a delight to watch myself bowl in the second innings. I was a little rusty in the first innings, got into a better rhythm in the second innings straightaway, bowling with the new ball. Today was one of those days when I started enjoying my spell right from the start.”

An engineer by qualification, Ashwin has been regularly upgrading his bag of tricks to make some of the best batsmen in world cricket his bunnies. Be it the Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara or Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson, many such have had difficult times against the ever-thinking and evolving Ashwin.

Bangladesh’s batting coach Thilan Samaraweera, who faced legends Anil Kumble and Shane Warne in his days and played along with Muttiah Muralitharan, felt Ashwin is in a league of his own. “I’m the biggest believer of legacies. Sunil Gavaskar set a benchmark, then Sachin Tendulkar chased that and pushed the benchmark and now Virat Kohli is chasing that.

Ashwin knows Anil (Kumble) and Harbhajan (Singh) set the benchmark and I think if he plays another 7-8 years, without any injuries, I think he’s close to 600 wickets.”

Not willing to draw any comparison with former team-mate Muralitharan, the highest wicket-taker in the world with 800 scalps, Samaraweera felt Ashwin is a genius in his own right.

“Two different bowlers. Muralitharan was a genuinely gifted and talented cricketer. When I’m watching Ashwin, I think he’s very smart and has got a lot of skills. He’s got more variation and he knows how to change the length and line. Hard to compare the two.”

Cheteshwar Pujara, speaking to the media, also heaped praise on Ashwin. “Probably he is the toughest spinner when it comes to any opposition team. Many teams are planning on how they are going to face Ashwin. The kind of brain he has, he thinks as a batsman, what are the weaknesses of a batsman and what are the areas he needs to bowl. I think it’s the experience. He’s one of the most experienced bowlers we have and one of the strike bowlers in the Indian team.”
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