For someone who has scored two centuries this year to go with three 50-plus knocks for Team India, including a vital 72, it is no surprise that Ravichandran Ashwin has aggregated 500 Test runs this year.
But throw in the 56 wickets he has taken in the same period, and Ravichandran Ashwin joined a select cricket group, becoming only the seventh player in Test history to achieve the double of 500 runs and 50 wickets in a year. Kapil Dev was the only Indian on the list until Sunday.
Mitchell Johnson (Australia), Daniel Vettori (New Zealand), Andrew Flintoff, Ian Botham (twice) (England), Shaun Pollock (twice) and Kapil Dev (twice) are those to achieve the feat before Ashwin.
Numbers are important, but more than that, Ravichandran Ashwin showed again why he is Virat Kohli’s MVP. He has won games with the ball and either saved or consolidated the position with the bat.
The second day of the Test may turn out to be the clincher for India as the hosts were looking down the barrel at 204 for six, making even England’s 283 look a formidable score. His 97-run stand for the seventh wicket with Ravindra Jadeja not just saved India the embarrassment, it has set up the game brilliantly for them.
While he was hobbling and looked in pain while batting and running between the wickets, India will hope and pray it is nothing more than cramp. India cannot afford to lose Ashwin to injury now.
Both Ashwin and Jadeja knew the importance of getting to bowl at England batsmen in their second innings with conditions expected to turn out more spin-friendly, but they were probably more aware of India needing more runs to allow Kohli to give them attacking fields.
So, they took it upon themselves to get the score as close to England’s as possible. They first defended and then attacked when Cook brought the field up. Ashwin was his usual self, driving, nudging and punching of the back foot while Jadeja even hit a couple of straight sixes off leg-spinner Adil Rashid. And when the second new ball was taken, they scored quicker.
Cheteshwar Pujara, when asked about Ashwin’s discomfiture, said: “I don’t know because I haven’t yet met him or spoken to him. I hope it is not serious. He was completely fine while bowling; he might be a bit fatigued and must have picked up some niggle during batting.”
Aside of Ashwin’s fitness concerns, the Indians have been going down like nine pins. If it was KL Rahul on Saturday, it was the turn of Hardik Pandya, yet to get a game this series, to be released from the squad following a shoulder injury picked up during practice.