The last few months in Ravichandran Ashwin’s career have played out like a fantasy. In Australia, he out-bowled Nathan Lyon and scripted one of the finest rearguard batting acts in the history of Indian cricket. Later, at home, he ambushed the still-clueless England batsmen on a variety of pitches using an assortment of tricks and scored a languid hundred on a difficult surface. And the 22nd of his 23 wickets in this series brought him his 400th Test wicket, a remarkable achievement.
It’s time he’s seen not just as an Indian great, but one of the greatest off-spinners the world has seen. To be the second fastest to 400 wickets, after the high priest of spin-bowling, Muttiah Muralitharan, is no trivial feat. Take into consideration favourable home turfs, the ineptness of modern-day batsmen to quell quality spinners, and still his achievements stand out. The mastery of his craft, the eagerness to sustain his learning curve and the ambition to be the best in the world, all make him a text-book role model, who often went out of the syllabus to hone his craft. The master who is always a student. A spin scientist, just as Murali was a spin artist.
It’s also time he’s bracketed among the genuine all-rounders of the world, in the company of Ben Stokes, Shakib-al-Hasan and Ravindra Jadeja. His numbers, both in bowling and batting, can only get better. The touch with the bat is back, just as he has cracked the overseas code. He’s 34, but spinners have long lives — Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble retired at 38; Rangana Herath at 39. And their last stretch contained some of their most productive years. So with Ashwin, the best is yet to be. He could surpass himself, and end up as one of the greatest ever to have spun a cricket ball. And in the context of Indian cricket, the greatest all-rounder since Kapil.