How Ashwin stacks up against cricket’s bowling legends
R Ashwin’s overall record appears impressive but it hides a deep skew between his performance at home and abroad
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Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin broke Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee’s 36-year-old record to become the quickest to get to 300 wickets in the second test match with Sri Lanka in Nagpur. He also became the fifth Indian bowler to reach the 300-plus wickets club comprising so far of Kapil Dev, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, and Zaheer Khan.
Ashwin took 54 test matches to reach the 300-wicket milestone. Lillee achieved the same feat in 56 tests. The third fastest to reach 300 wickets in the history of test cricket is Sri Lankaa’s Muttiah Muralitharan, who achieved this feat in 58 tests.
But is Ashwin as effective a bowler as the other bowling greats? To compare his record with that of others, we examine the track record of other bowlers at a similar stage in their career.
Ashwin’s overall track record compares favourably with that of Lillee and Muralitharan at a similar stage in their careers. Among the three, Lillee had the best strike rate (balls bowled per wicket) as well as the best bowling average (runs conceded per wicket). Muralitharan’s record till 300 wickets appears the poorest. Ashwin’s record is better than Muralitharan’s but worse than Lillee’s.
Ashwin’s impressive overall record hides a skew between his domestic and overseas performance. While his domestic record is spectacular, his overseas one is ordinary. Both Muralitharan and Lillee performed better overseas compared to Ashwin at a similar stage in their careers.
Compared to other Indian spinners at the same stage in their careers, Ashwin’s away-to-home bowling average looks impressive. His away-to-home record appears far more impressive than either Harbhajan Singh’s or Kumble’s.
But it is worth noting that Ashwin’s overseas success is largely driven by his record in the rest of the subcontinent. His bowling average outside the subcontinent is higher compared to other Indian spinners at the same stage in their careers. He has also played fewer matches outside the subcontinent compared to the others.
Ashwin needs to improve his performance outside India and the Indian subcontinent to cement his place among the bowling legends of the game.