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Ravichandran Ashwin and the bowling all-rounder conundrum

Ravichandran Ashwin India News
Indian cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates his 100th run. (Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

Ravichandran Ashwin was out of sorts recently after being under-bowled in the World T20 and Indian Premier League (IPL) as he failed to make much of an impact. He was under immense pressure to turn things around and Ashwin made a strong comeback in the first Test against West Indies.

He possibly made the best ever start to the series with a century and with a 7-wicket haul in the second innings of the Test match to present India the biggest ever win outside Asia – an innings and 92 runs. Ashwin for his all-round effort was awarded the Man of the match.

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Ashwin with the bat:

On Day 1, of the first Test against the West Indies, when India’s Ravichandran Ashwin walked in to bat at No. 6, ahead of wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha, it raised a few eyebrows. Soon, some of those raised eyebrows would have lowered as the tall right-hander hit his first boundary not too long into his innings with an effortless cover drive off the bowling of Carlos Brathwaite.

It was after the Indian skipper, Virat Kohli, who decided to go in with 5 specialist bowlers, marking the new aggressive approach the team is adopting. Ashwin, who had started his first-class career as a batsman made batting look easy as he found runs against all sorts of bowling – off-spin of Kraigg Brathwaite, leg-spin of Devendra Bishoo and against the three pace bowlers.

More than power, his innings was decorated with timing and placement. Even the way he pushes for singles seemed so elegant. There was perhaps just one shot when it actually looked like he made an effort to get a boundary – a heave down mid-wicket off the bowling of Devendra Bishoo.

Also read – The change of format is so quick that you have to adapt: Virat Kohli

He brought up his hundred off 237 balls as the whole team stood up to applaud his first overseas century and his third against the same opposition.

Take nothing away from the innings it came against an attack that has just two specialist bowlers of a team ranked eighth in the Test rankings.

His batting average of 33.76 is good enough for qualifying him as a good bowling all-rounder. But if you cut it down to against major teams, his average also falls down, asnd he averages 21.14 against Australia, 23.80 against South Africa, and 15.66 against Sri Lanka if you only consider his record overseas, it drops down to 29.

Also read – West Indies v India, 1st Test: Memorable moments of the match

On the other hand, if you dig into the numbers of the no.6 batsmen playing for all Test teams Ashwin leads most of them with his average hobbling over 33. Australia’s Mitchell Marsh averages 23, Sri Lanka’s Lahiru Thirimanne has an average of 24 and New Zealand’s Corey Anderson with 32.52 are around the same mark and that makes him a prospect worth backing.

Ashwin with the ball:
Ravichandran Ashwin India
India’s cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin (C) celebrates during day four of the cricket test match. (Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite going wicketless in the first innings, he approached the second inning with a lot of positive intent and held his patience focusing on sticking to the basics.

A marvellous delivery to get rid of the experienced Marlon Samuels, who was batting on 50, showed his class as the straighter one kissed Samuels’ off-stump.

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With the 7-wicket haul, Ashwin became the first Indian to score a century and grab  7 wickets in the same Test match. Overall, he is the third player to achieve this feat after Jack Gregory and Ian Botham. His bowling figures of 7/83 are also the best by an Indian in West Indies and this was his 17th 5-wicket haul in a Test match from his 33 Tests so far – the most by a spinner at this point of his career.

It was the second time in his Test career where he scored a hundred and claimed five wickets, which speaks volumes about his all-around capabilities. If India could brew him well, they can  extract a genuine all-rounder out of him.

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