With Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, Indian cricket is once again experiencing a staggering era of dominant spin.
Back in 1994, Sri Lanka was touring India and playing at Ahmedabad. There was no COVID around then, of course, and so it was a houseful. The fans had come to watch the legendary Kapil Dev bowl and break Sir Richard Hadlee’s long-standing record of 431 Test wickets.
And break it he did, throwing his hands up in jubilation, hugging his teammates even as the crowd went berserk. The ground authorities released 432 balloons to commemorate that moment.
For a long, long time after Kapil Dev retired with 434 Test wickets, that milestone remained an elusive one in Test cricket. Like with any other record, there was wonderment. Will there ever be another bowler to go past 434? Will it be a pacer or spinner, overcoming the demands of the game and the expansion of the international calendar? Will there ever be another Indian to do it?
Almost three decades later, and before the start of this first Test between India and Sri Lanka, eight bowlers had already gone past Kapil Dev. This was a heady mix of pacers and spinners, with the latter trio of Muttiah Muralitharan (800 wickets), Shane Warne (708) and Anil Kumble (619) leading the way, before James Anderson (640) broke through that pack.
So, the answers to those aforementioned questions were – yes, yes, and yes. On Sunday then, that third answer became a double yes. Ravichandran Ashwin joined this exclusive list and became the ninth bowler to go past Kapil Dev’s mark, and just the second Indian to do it. This, indeed, has been a Test match of landmarks.
Of course, the setting has been variedly different thanks to COVID and other inexplicable factors. Virat Kohli played his 100th Test and crossed the 8000-run mark in front of near-empty stands. Rohit Sharma became India’s 35th Test captain in front of no more than 12000 fans across three days, none of whom came to cheer for Sri Lanka in their 300th Test. Most of all, it remains a doubt if anyone gathered in the stands at the I.S. Bindra Stadium even knew about Ashwin’s landmark.
At least, one person did know. As Ashwin went back to his run-up mark after celebrating the wicket of Charith Asalanka, Jasprit Bumrah went to him and gave him a little hug before going to his fielding position. That small act of camaraderie was celebration enough for this historic feat, as Ashwin got on with his job. India wrapped up the game in three days, unsurprisingly.
Even the host broadcaster forgot to ask Ashwin about his feat, and we will have to wait to find out his exact feelings about overtaking someone like Kapil Dev. And yet, it seemed routine out there for Ashwin who is at that stage of his career wherein breaking records is the norm. Sample this, he is just 15 Tests away from reaching his own century milestone, and one is willing to bet good money that he will be the next after Kohli to get there.
There is one hiccup though, and you can sift through the Mohali match scorecard for it. Ashwin finished with a career milestone and a match-haul of 6-96, plus a 61-run knock in the only Indian innings. But he finished second best to his partner-in-crime Ravindra Jadeja, who owned Mohali across the three days with 175 not out and a match-haul of 9-87.
Let us come to the obvious bit, first. Ashwin-Jadeja scalped 15 out of the 20 Lankan wickets, and it was par for course. In any home Test, these two wreak havoc, unprecedented to an extent. You have to go back two decades to find Kumble and Harbhajan Singh did so, but only for a short while. Then, go back another decade earlier to find Kumble in company with Rajesh Chauhan and Venkatpathy Raju, as India built an unbeaten home record under Mohammad Azharuddin.
Neither of those spin attacks dominated as Ashwin-Jadeja do at the moment. The eighties was the decade for the birth of pace in Indian cricket, and so, one has to traverse through time, back to the seventies, to find Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, Erapalli Prasanna, Bishen Bedi and S. Venkataraghavan bowling together in a similarly dominant vein.
That spin quartet took 853 wickets between them, while Ashwin-Jadeja have already combined for 677 wickets at a time when there is more cricket, more technical and video analysis, flatter and thoroughly rolled wickets. The point is not in comparison, for there can never be one between two different eras. The fact of the matter though is Indian cricket is again experiencing a staggering era of dominant spin. We know it, sure. We must acknowledge it better as well.
Once again then, Ashwin is on a path to breaking records. There is good money to bet that he will get close or even overtake Kumble at some point. He is an all-time great of Indian cricket and there is no arguing that bit. The question to ask here is, where does that put Jadeja?
The answer is pretty simple. Ashwin, at this point in time, is very good at what he does. Jadeja does much the same as he does. For what it’s worth, he is simply better at it than Ashwin at this point in time. No, this is not taking the Mohali Test as an example, for one match can never be the judging parameter.
In keeping with how cricketers mature and hit the sweetest spot of their careers around the 30-34 age group, Jadeja too has simply found a new level to his game. He is a calmer batsman than before, which has helped him realise a new potential for his run-scoring ability. And he is a more attacking bowler at home, and a more defensive bowler when playing overseas. So much so, he now understands the finer nuances of turn than simply relying on natural variation to bamboozle batsmen.
This, in turn, brings us to the never-ending debate. When playing overseas, who is the one spinner India should pick? Ashwin, who is more versatile and offers more with the ball, or Jadeja, who is simply the complete all-round package? In England, Jadeja won over Ashwin, but with a new team management in place, who knows how the dominoes will line up next time.
In the meantime, India play seven of their next eight Tests in home/sub-continental conditions. This implies that the management wouldn’t have to worry too much about choosing. Both Ashwin-Jadeja will continue to terrorise opponents with a near-unbeatable template in home conditions. Forget Sri Lanka, or even England and Bangladesh later this year; the Aussies are coming (February-March 2023), and they have been warned.
Read all the Latest News, Trending News, Cricket News, Bollywood News, India News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
Ravindra Jadeja's gesture has brought an end to the rumours that there was something is amiss between MS Dhoni and the all-rounder.
After their first playoff match, in which CSK defeated defending champions Gujarat Titans by 15 runs and booked their spot in the 28 May final, Jadeja was seen having an animated chat with franchise CEO Kasi Vishwanathan.
Kapil Dev gave a straightforward reply to questions over MS Dhoni's possible retirement from IPL.