Ravichandran Ashwin: Analysing the wide gulf between his home and away figures
Test Cricket in India is mostly about spinners with fast-bowlers being the window-dressers. The spin bowlers are heavily relied upon on the traditionally slow and low wickets. Some of the tracks in the country start generating turn from Day 1 itself. Fans across the globe anxiously wait for the premier spinners to take center-stage.
India currently has Ravichandran Ashwin as a frontline spinner who has developed himself into a dependable bowler in the most demanding format of the sport. In 51 matches, the Tamil-Nadu born spinners has notched up a staggering 286 wickets. Recently with 26 five-fors, he surpassed Harbhajan Singh as the bowler with the second most five-wicket hauls for India in Test Cricket.
However, there are two angles to his glorious and illustrious career. In the beginning, let’s take an insight into Ashwin’s performances on Indian wickets. Whenever India fields, everyone waits in anticipation of the introduction of the off-spinner into the attack. Let’s see what the statistics have to say.
Statistics show that Ashwin has played a chunk of his games in India and he hardly let India down in those games with as many as 208 wickets in 31 games. At an average, he picks up 7 wickets in every game he plays at home.
Ashwin’s jaw dropping figures in India
Ashwin has played a total of 10 Test series at home against the likes of England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In 7 of those series, he went on to pick up at least one five-wicket haul.
Here’s a country-wise analysis of Ashwin’s performance at home.
The above illustration displays how Ravi Ashwin has shown his dominance over other teams. Against the likes of Australia and New Zealand, Ashwin has been India’s go to man with 50 and 49 wickets respectively.
While his bowling average looks impressive than ever, he also churns out five-wicket hauls with sheer ease. In India, Ashwin picks up a 5-for in every 1.6 Tests, which is outstanding, to say the least. Even the best players of spin have found it difficult against Ashwin on the slow Indian wickets.
Not at all impressive in foreign conditions
Ravichandran Ashwin has been representing India in Test cricket for the last six years and has played quite a few number of matches in foreign conditions. After a delightful journey through Ashwin’s number at home, let’s take you through the off-spinner’s statistics in foreign conditions.
The numbers aren’t intriguing enough like the ones in home conditions. However, a detailed analysis might reveal a completely different story altogether.
Following is a breakdown of his record outside India.
The Indian off-spinner has 78 wickets in his kitty in 19 games, which converts to an average of 4 wickets per game. However, it also includes matches against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where conditions are pretty similar to India.
Barring the two sub-continent nations, Ashwin has picked up 41 wickets in 13 games which convert to 3.15 wickets per game. West Indies, against whom he has 17 wickets, has also struggled big time in Test cricket over the past few years. That leaves us with Australia, England and South Africa.
The pitches in these three nations are always challenging for a spinner, but that’s exactly where the test of a spinner’s temperament and attitude lies.
In nine matches against these three nations, Ashwin has picked up a meagre 24 wickets with no five-for. In his otherwise glorious career, Ashwin somehow hasn’t found a way of making inroads into the opposition's batting line-up.
The vast difference
Now let’s take a look at the difference between his exploits in home and foreign conditions.
As per the illustrations, there’s a huge gap between Ashwin’s show at home and his performances in foreign conditions. While he picks up wickets in India at the rate of peanuts, he struggles for the same on overseas decks.
While in India he gets an average of 6.71 wickets/match, the rate drops down to 4.10 on foreign soil. The off-spinner has played most of his overseas games against Australia and has picked up wickets at the rate of 3.50/game, which is way below than that of 6.25 in Indian conditions.
Bowling average displays the rate at which a bowler gets his/her wickets. The less the average, the efficient the bowler is in picking up wickets. Against Australia in their home ground, Ashwin has a dismal average of 54.71, which is 31.55 more than what it is in India.
He only has notable numbers in Sri Lanka where he has racked up 32 wickets, which converts to 41.02 percent of his wickets on foreign tracks. All in all, the Tamil Nadu spinner has struggled to find his feet when it comes to bowling on pitches which aren’t conducive to spin bowling.
Time to turn the tables for Ashwin
With the passage of time, Ravichandran Ashwin has grilled himself into a stalwart of the Indian bowling line-up. He has been India’s trump card with the red cherry whenever the team needs wickets and he has lived up to the expectations.
However, his numbers on foreign soil are the only blobs in his superlative career and he will like to work on them during India’s upcoming overseas assignments. India will be touring South Africa for a Test series that begins in January 2018 where Ashwin is likely to be India’s spearhead bowler in the spin department.
Ashwin is yet to pick up a Test wicket in South Africa, but he has a golden opportunity to add to the wickets column and improve his numbers in foreign countries when India will be playing against the Proteas
At 30 years of age, Ashwin is a seasoned campaigner for India in Test cricket. Nevertheless, it’s high time for the off-spinner to step up and perform with the ball on foreign soil. Time hasn’t yet run out for Ashwin, but now it's high time for the Tamil Nadu spinner to answer his critics.