India’s recent test series win over England had plenty to highlight – the young Yashaswi Jaiswal’s player of the series winning 700+ runs (the only Indian after the great Sunil Gavaskar to do that), Jasprit Bumrah’s series setting spell in the second test or even the debate around England’s Bazball strategy. Yet the highlight for some of us was R.Ashwin’s greatness attaining twin record of 500 wickets and 100 tests.

As the article quotes current coach Rahul Dravid: ““People use the word ‘great’ too easily. Greatness is consistency over time. It comes from practice, it comes from constantly making changes, it comes from sacrifice, it comes from stubbornness, it comes from constantly evolving, growing, learning. It comes from giving everything that you have to a team and giving everything you have to a craft. And Ash, because you have faithfully done all of these things, you have arrived at a truly great place – your 100th Test.”

A couple of less known facts that underpin Ashwin’s greatness according to this piece. First, Ashwin has ten player of the series awards (that’s almost every fourth series) and second only to Muralitharan who played 50% more series than Ashwin. Second, even more startling is that he has the best strike rate (arguably the best measure for bowling efficacy in tests) among those with 500+ wickets (a list that includes Murali, Warne, McGrath, etc).

Besides the grit and hardwork, Ashwin’s ability to read the game and outthink batsmen stands out. Vishwanathan Anand once referred to him as the chess player among cricketers. Captain Rohit Sharma calls him the cricket scientist. His Youtube channel is testimony to his curiosity and nuanced understanding of the game.

The article quotes him from his 100th test speech: ““I would like to tell something to the entire cricketing fraternity in our country right now,” said Ashwin, his voice choked with emotion. “The IPL has been a hugely popular tournament. A lot of kids want to play T20 cricket, want to get into the IPL. I do really wish them well and hope they get there. But remember one thing, this format [Test cricket] that we are proudly playing teaches you a lot of things that life wouldn’t teach you. Test cricket is what life is. It is the closest synergy that you can find to life. It teaches you adaptability, dealing with pressure, so on and so forth. I can go on for weeks. All those things will keep you in great stead if you decide to go all the way in this game. This great game will give you a lot of dividends for whatever work you put into it. I really hope a lot more people take up this sport and keep this wonderful format flying really high.”

In a way, it is because of players like him we love Test cricket.

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