Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin equalled the record of Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan as the fastest bowler to 350 test wickets in the first match against South Africa in Visakhapatnam.
He reached the milestone on Sunday morning when he bowled Theunis de Bruyne for 10, his sole wicket in the second innings, having taken 7 for 145 first time round.
Ashwin equalled the record in his 66th test, the same number of matches it took Muralitharan to reach that total. The 47 year old Sri Lanka retired in 2010, having taken 800 test wickets.
Yet, there were some who thought even a month ago that Ashwin’s international career seemed to be over. That was despite him holding the Indian record for Man-of-the-Series awards, and having a very impressive test record, being the fastest man to reach both 250 and 300 test wickets.
His exclusion from the test match arena fuelled rumours of a feud behind the scenes between Ashwin and his captain Virat Kohli. Others have argued that, despite Ashwin’s undoubted ability on turning pitches, he needs to improve when it comes to flat wickets, and that spinners like Ravindra Jadeja offer better control when the batsmen are in control.
For whatever reason, Ashwin did not feature at all for India at all this year prior to the first test in Visakhapatnam, but, having worked his way back into the side, it will be very hard to drop him for the rest of this series.
33 year old Ashwin made his test debut in November 2011 against the West Indies in Delhi. He took 9 wickets in all in the game and was named man of the match – only the third Indian ever to be awarded that distinction on test debut. Later that same series, he scored his maiden test century, and became only the third Indian to score a hundred and claim five wickets in the same match.
In 2016 the International Cricket Council named Ashwin the ICC Cricketer of the Year, and the ICC Test Cricketer, and the same organisation named him in their World Test XI for both 2016 and 2017. And, in India’s 2016 – 2017 home season, he took 64 wickets in 13 tests, becoming the highest wicket-taker for India in a single domestic season, surpassing the record previously held by Kapil Dev of 63 wickets in 10 Tests during the 1979-80 season.
Now he is back in the international test fold, if he can produce the same level of performance as he did against South Africa, then Indian cricket fans will be hoping he can stay there this time.