Ravichandran Ashwin on Friday went past Zaheer Khan to become the fourth highest wicket-taker for India in Test cricket. Ashwin reached the mark when he castled Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai in his very first over on day 2 of the one-off Test in Bengaluru.
The wicket was the off spinner’s 312th in Test cricket, which took him ahead of former India paceman Zaheer Khan (311 wickets in 92 Tests). Ashwin has time and again proved his wicket-taking abilities in Test cricket and is also the fastest to the twin milestones of 250 & 300 Test wickets respectively.
Former India coach and the man whose big boots Ashwin is still trying to fill, Anil Kumble, sits atop the perch with 619 wickets in 132 Test matches, which in turn is the third highest tally in the history of the game. Kapil Dev, Indian cricket’s original rockstar, is second with 434 wickets in 131 Test matches, while Harbhajan Singh currently occupies the third spot with 417 wickets in 103 Test matches.
Ashwin gave a befitting reply to Stanikzai when he beat the middle-order batsman all ends up. Stanikzai, who had claimed that the Afghan spinners were better than their Indian counterparts, came face to face with the harsh realities of Test cricket as Ashwin bamboozled him with a classical off spinner. With the Indian pacers already making early in roads into the Afghan batting, Stanikzai was looking to steady the innings and started well by hitting a couple of boundaries. He looked in control until Ashwin was introduced into the attack.
The spin wizard bowled a flighted delivery outside the off stump in the zone of uncertainty, which left the Afghan captain stuck in his crease thinking whether to employ the front foot defence or play it on the backfoot. Stanikzai’s dilemma resulted in him missing the line of the ball completely and Ashwin managed to disturb the timber.
Ashwin quickly added a second wicket to take his tally to 313 wickets as he trapped the southpaw Hashmatullah Shahidi to pile further misery on the Test debutants. He ended the innings with figures of 4/27 off 8 overs as the Afghans were bowled out for 109 in their first innings.
With the off spinner not being selected for the shorter formats of the game consistently, his performance in every single Test will be under microscopic scrutiny.
Ashwin though has proved his mettle time and again and will be more than keen to keep the wicket rush going in Test cricket, and keep reminding the selectors of his status as the king of spin in India.