What‘s the story?
Bangladesh batting coach and former Sri Lankan batsman Thilan Samaraweera has lavished praise on Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. He lauded the 30-year old for breaking the record for fastest to 250 wickets during the Hyderabad Test and compared him to the iconic Muttiah Muralitharan.
At the close of play on day four in Hyderabad, Samaraweera insisted, “They are two different bowlers. Murali was a genuinely gifted, talented cricketer. But Ashwin is very smart and has developed a skill set which says a lot about him. He has many variations, he can change his line and length but these two are hard to compare.”
He explained, “I am the biggest believer in legacies. Like Sunil Gavaskar set the benchmark and then Sachin Tendulkar chased that. He set a higher benchmark and now Virat Kohli is chasing that. With Ashwin – Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh set the benchmarks and now he is chasing that. If he plays for another 7-8 years, hopefully he is fit, he will be in the range between 600 to 800 wickets.”
Ashwin is the top-ranked bowler as well as all-rounder in Test cricket at the moment. From just 16 series, the Tamil Nadu cricketer has already picked up 7 Player of the Series awards thus showing his ability to influence the game with the ball. Not surprisingly, Muralitharan is at the top of the pile with 11 such awards from 61 series.
The heart of the matter
Hailed for his peerless capacity to deliver 50-plus overs on a regular basis, Muralitharan is the gold standard when it comes to off-spin. Although a few sceptics could harp on the mystery surrounding his bowling action, no other cricketer has single-handedly shaped the fortunes of a nation as much as he did for Sri Lanka during his remarkable career.
Perhaps, only Sir Richard Hadlee with his contribution to New Zealand cricket comes close.
Having played with Muralitharan for quite a long time in the 2000s decade, Samaraweera can acknowlegde his mastery. With 800 wickets from 133 Tests at an average of 22.72, the spin genius turned out to be a game-changer across different types of pitches. Meanwhile, Ashwin is also steadfastly racking up the numbers and could end up with a monstrous wickets tally if he remains fit for the next few years.
The next personal target for Ashwin will be the 300-wicket mark. Currently on 252 scalps and possibly a few more in the second innings, he can beat Dennis Lillee’s mark at 56 Tests and become the fastest to the ensuing milestone if he gets there within 10 more Tests.
Samaraweera’s views on the two off-spinners seem to be pretty accurate. A freakishly gifted cricketer, Muralitharan bamboozled batsmen across the globe with his control and persistence. Even though Ashwin has made rapid strides in the last few years, he still has a long way to go before matching up to the wily Sri Lankan wizard.Published 12 Feb 2017, 21:52 IST