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It has been quite long since the dust settled down after the South African tour of India, and any sort of cricket for the Men in Blue for that matter but there has been one such performance that is still fresh in our minds and of utmost importance to the Indian camp, especially keeping in view the tournaments and tours on cards for India in the year ahead.
The performance has been that of spin-spearhead Ravichandran Ashwin.
Throughout the series against the South Africans, much was written about the pitches of not being fit enough for test matches, but among all such talks not a single bit of credit can be taken away from him for he stood out overwhelmingly amidst everyone else, making a statement and that too quite a prominent one. The pattern for him over the years too, has been quite the same, for in space of just 4 years since his debut at the test level, he stands at No.1 in the all rounder ICC Test Rankings and needless to say is the captain's go to man.
The year which passed by had been one of a kind for him for he not only grabbed the number one all-rounder spot in tests but also the much coveted number one spot as a test bowler after beginning the year at number 15. Playing only 9 matches throughout the year he bagged as many as 62 wickets and for the first time since 1973 did any Indian bowler make it to the numer uno spot after Bhishan Singh Bedi.
It would not be wrong to say that this man is having he time of his life.
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Starting as a batsman at the junior level, the choice to pick up off-break bowling has proved to be benificial not only to him but to the Indian camp as well, for since the retirement of spin stalwarts like Bedi, Prassana and Kumble there had been talks of how India's most lethal weapon of spin has dwindled. However now, with the the way the trio of Mishra, Jadeja led by Ashwin spun the web around the South Africans to completely ensnare them, things appear to be in the brighter light.
Many would attribute his success to the favourable sub continent conditions to assist his spin, but it all started this year with a really disciplined performance at the World Cup, Down Under, where he was right on the money picking up 13 wickets to his name.
High on confidence he took his form to the Emerald Island where he seemed truly impeccable at his job, so much so that whenever he came to bowl there was an assurance of a Sri Lankan wicket falling, any moment. in just three test encounters he garnered 21 wickets making survival difficult for the Lankan lions in their own den. He also chipped in with a half-century in a crucial situation and thus proving how valuable an asset he is to the team
Then came the series versus the Proteas where he showcased his skill to perfection producing some exciting spells and making the contest against the heavy weighted African batting line up a treat to watch for the cricket fans. He not only dominated in all the four tests but also in a sense restored the faith of the fans in the Indian spin attack. Bagging 31 wickets in a 4 match series and making a side as intimidating as the Proteas as an ordinary one, he made it a point that his team crossed the line for a white wash after a dismal limited overs series against the South Africans. Not only that, he yet again contributed with the willow in the last test at the Kotla with yet another half-century which was of utmost importance to his team. The statement by AB de Villiers - " Ashwin is a world class spinner and needs to be respected." , during the series speaks volumes of how Ashwin topped the Proteas batsmen.
With this year he made sure his name appeared in the list of quite a few records and his number game looks quite strong. Statistics suggest that he has become the indisputable bowler in Asia, to have picked up 152 wickets, fastest by anyone in the terms of the number of tests played by him. Apart from this important feat that he accomplished, one more thing that the fans would desire is, that he establishes himself in the same manner overseas.
Now that might have become the talk of the past. Moving ahead, with the t20 World Cup coming up, that too to be played in India, no wonder he would prove to be the strongest link in this Indian side. His dominance in the tests must be fresh in the minds but lets not forget that he rose to the international scene after being spotted in the IPL with some extremely eye catching performances for the Chennai Super Kings.
A replication of the World Cup performance would be expected later this month when the Indians tour Australia for an all important 5 match ODI series and a 2 match t20 series ahead of the World T20.
Lots and lots has been written about this man as the emerging sensation, but this off spinner ready to bowl over or round the wicket, varying his pace with very ball and doing just as the situation demands by using his sound cricketing brain has something about him that cannot take away any bit of credit given to him.
With an itinerary lined up with a long home season for the Indians, and also keeping the long term perspective in mind backed by some solid performances to make a lasting impact, it will be fair enough to say that this Ashwin factor of India can indeed prove to be an indispensible one.