Ravichandran Ashwin added another feather to his already decorated hat as the veteran India cricketer became the second-quickest all-rounder to score 3000 runs and take more than 450 wickets in Tests.
A dogged 71-run stand between Shreyas Iyer and Ashwin came to India’s rescue as the visitors snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to pull off a three-wicket win over Bangladesh to win the Test series 2-0.
With India reeling at 74 for seven, chasing 145, Bangladesh was on course for its first-ever Test win against its formidable neighbour before Iyer (29 not out off 46) and Ashwin (42 not out off 62) denied it with an unbeaten 71-run stand off 105 balls. Ashwin was also involved in a historic partnership as it was the second-highest eighth wicket alliance for an Indian pair in the fourth innings of a Test match.
During India’s first-ever Test in 1932 against England, Amar Singh and Lall Singh forged a 74-run stand at Lord’s. Former India legends Kapil Dev and L Sivaramakrishnan were involved in a 70-run stand for the eighth wicket in 1985 against Sri Lanka in Colombo. It was again after 37 years that an Indian partnership prospered after the fall of seven wickets and it happened on Christman Day in Mirpur with Ashwin and Iyer entering record books and helping India complete a clean sweep.
Having played yet another crucial role in a pulsating Test win, Ashwin is now only second, behind Sir Richard Hadlee, in the list of quickest to 3000 runs and 400 wickets, in 88 Test innings. Hadlee was the quickest as the legendary former New Zealand all-rounder got to the landmark in 86 matches, having scored 3124 runs and picked 431 Test wickets.
While Ashwin occupies the second spot, South Africa all-rounder Shaun Pollock reached the landmark in 108 Tests while India’s World Cup-winning captain Dev surpassed the milestone in 131 matches.
With a sharp cricketing brain and astute knowledge about his craft, Ashwin is definitely one of India’s all-time greats, not just with the ball but also with the bat.
Ashwin has produced scintillating Test knocks, having scored five centuries and 13 half-centuries and the Sydney, along with the Mirpur heroics, certainly put him as one of the greatest all-rounders that India has produced.
With the ball, Ashwin has always been criticised for not picking wickets, especially in Australia, England and South Africa. But, none can take away his match-winning credentials as one of India’s best off-spinners. Ashwin has taken 312 of his 449 Test wickets at home and with seven 10-wicket hauls.
However, of late, the batter in Ashwin, which was always present, has rather shone brightly as the knocks in Sydney and Mirpur have come under tremendous pressure, with India’s back against the wall. Taking a measure of the situation and playing to the merit of the ball, Ashwin dropped anchor each time India was in trouble and held one end while others flourished.
The all-rounder has a liking towards England in particular as he has scored 970 runs in the 2012-21 period - his highest against any opposition in the 3043 runs he has scored so far.
While the majority of the runs have come in India (1622), the Tamil Nadu tweaker has his share of contributions in Australia, England, West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa. While he is yet to conquer the New Zealand shores with the bat, Ashwin’s Mirpur blockbuster has spiked his batting average in Bangladesh to 57.00. Ashwin also has the distinction of scoring a century and taking a five-wicket haul and has achieved the feat thrice - twice against West Indies (103 & five for 156, 113 & seven for 83) and then against England (106 & five for 43).
Tackling low bounce on a track that spewed out a puff of dust when the ball landed on the rough, Ashwin, with a low stance, manoeuvred along with Iyer to keep the buoyant Bangladesh spinners at bay.
Patience was the key and having a wealth of experience under his belt, the all-rounder blunted the attack and then deflated the Dhaka spirits with an one-handed jab for a six and consecutive fours to seal the deal for India, yet again.