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Ravichandran Ashwin, India's Greatest Match-Winner

Ravichandran Ashwin keeps racking up one staggering record after another. (AFP Photo)

Ravichandran Ashwin keeps racking up one staggering record after another. (AFP Photo)

It is high time that the world starts acknowledging the genius of Ravichandran Ashwin unreservedly.

Even if the highest wicket- taker in the history of the game Muttiah Muralitharan has himself gone on record saying that if anyone who 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.

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So, Ashwin realistically can’t be the greatest offspinner the game has ever seen, at least statistically speaking. Even the tag of the greatest ever Indian bowler is something Ashwin will find tough to accomplish as there is the incomparable Anil Kumble with 618 Test wickets. However, all is not lost for the Chennai-born and he can still carve a special place in this stats driven social media world where a legend is often rated on pure numbers alone.

The spinner can definitely finish his career with the most Man-of-the-Series awards if you go by his staggering strike-rate in this regard. He is the only player in the history of the game who has won more Player–of-the-Series accolade than Player-of-the-Match awards (8).

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Against the World’s number 1 Test team, Ashwin finished the two-match series with 14 wickets and bagged his 9th Man–of-the-Series award of his illustrious career. Along the way, he also equalled South African Jacques Kallis’ record who is inarguably the best allrounder of the modern era. Still, it took someone for even as skilful as Kallis 166 matches to earn his 9th Player–of-the-Series award while Ashwin reached there in just 81 matches.

This also means that the 35-year-old needs just two more Player–of-the-Series award in next 15 series (if all the remaining 45 matches are three-match series) to become the player with most such awards in Test history. The holder of most Player–of-the-Series award belongs to Muralitharan (11), but among all the staggering records of the former Sri Lankan wizard, this one is unlikely to stand the test of the time as long as Ashwin is playing.

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Of course, that’s a story for another day, but just imagine if similar feat was accomplished by an Indian batter how much newsprint, TV programming and internet pages would have been devoted on that player. For his five Player–of-the-Series awards, the former India opener Virender Sehwag played 104 Tests and the great Sachin Tendulkar’s career of record 200 matches also witnessed the same number of Player–of-the-Series awards in his career.

It is astonishing to note that except Ashwin there is not a single Indian among the top 11 who have won the most number of this award in their respective careers and yet rarely has Ashwin been ever praised profusely for such a monumental achievement. A closer look at Ashwin’s record will also reveal another compelling stats that tells you that the likes of Imran Khan (88 Test), Richard Hadlee (86 Tests) and Shane Warne (145 Tests) had to play more matches than Ashwin for their eight Player–of-the-Series awards in their respective careers.

R Ashwin has 10 player of the series awards to his name. (BCCI Photo)

Ashwin also notched up an incredible landmark of 300 wickets in India in the home series against New Zealand, but this is also often used as left-handed compliment by his critics who often argue - ‘What is the big deal if you take so many wickets in India?’ However, no one will say a word against Stuart Broad who has got 341 wickets in England and is in the elitist club of 500 Test wickets or more.

It is high time that the world starts acknowledging the genius of Ashwin unreservedly. A man who has reinvented himself in white-ball cricket and has been continuously evolving in red-ball cricket despite his place being certain in the hall of fame list. That Ashwin is not often credited for his amazing bowling feats is also evident in just the nodding appreciation of him getting 50 wickets in a calendar year which is perhaps the batting equivalent of getting five tons by a batter in the same time frame. Ashwin has done it most number of times which is four and is the most by an Indian. Among his contemporaries, Kohli has got five Test centuries in a calendar year only twice.

Of course, cricket is essentially a batter’s game and most of the time they are the one who hog the limelight, and yet when someone like Ashwin keeps racking up one staggering record after another, it is difficult to not hold your admiration for a player who is truly the Man of the series man of India and has the potential to become the Man of the series man of Test cricket in future!

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