In every cricketer’s career, there comes a moment that changes him. That takes him to the next level. That converts him from an ordinary cricketer to one of the lynchpins of his side.
For someone like a Virender Sehwag, it was perhaps in 2002, when Sourav Ganguly and the team management pushed him to open the batting. For VVS Laxman, it was maybe the 281 at the Eden Gardens against Australia, that made the world look at him from a different point of view.
Similarly for Ravichandran Ashwin, that moment, in his own words came in June 2015. Post the 2015 World Cup, where he was one of India’s best performers, the team embarked on a short trip to Bangladesh and in the solitary Test match where he played alongside senior statesman Harbhajan Singh, he came out clearly as the better bowler, picking up a five-wicket haul in his 25 overs.
After getting to 200 wickets on Sunday, Ashwin confessed since that tour, he had been enjoying his bowling and preparing plans on how to get rid of batsmen by setting them up.
"Ever since I came back from Australia last year, and went to Bangladesh I think that's when I really started enjoying my bowling. I knew what I was doing very clearly, started planning my dismissals, knew exactly how to set batsmen up. It's been a wonderful journey over the last couple of years, I just hope it keeps going for some time,” Ashwin said at the end of Day 4.
One look at the statistics and it shows that Ashwin does have a point. In Sri Lanka in July, he took 21 wickets. In the home series against South Africa, he took 31 wickets in 5 matches. In the West Indies, he picked up 17 wickets in four matches. Each of the performances earning him the Player of the Series award and deservingly so.
Sometimes, while judging performances, you look at many parameters. The opposition, the pitches etc. In Ashwin’s case, he feels it has been a mixture of everything, adding that a few instances the batsman have played him well like Kane Williamson did in the first innings,
"I think it is a combination of both (quality of opposition that matters or whether it is about him being satisfied about his performance). Sometimes when you are challenged by the opposition it is really good, for example Williamson batted really well, Ross Taylor was getting outside the line, they were trying to challenge me today. It was interesting because not every ball was spinning, it is not a wicket where you can blast batsmen off. So you have to wait for your opportunities. It's a combination of wickets, situation of the game and the opposition as well that makes me very happy,” he said.
There are 12 more Tests to go in the home season. The question isn’t whether Ashwin will succeed in them or not, the question is how many more scalps can he take, how many records can he break and most importantly, how many matches he can help India win.