400 Test wickets in 77 games, for a man who can out think anyone who plays the game, is a huge achievement. Only the second fastest to amass 400 scalps, and the fastest Indian to do so, Ashwin has endorsed his skills in his art in big bold shining letters. Indian captain Virat Kohli says it best, when he said
“I think we need to stand up and take notice of what Ashwin has done. In Tests, he is a modern-day legend. As a captain, I am so pleased he is in my team.”
He went on to say, that he would now address Ashwin as the ‘Ledge’ ( short for legend). And why not. As for the champion himself, he quietly acknowledged his feat in front of the appreciative crowd.
“It feels amazing actually (to reach 400 Test wickets). The entire stadium stood up and clapped for me. Pleased it happened in the winning cause. I was in the moment when it happened, and only realised when I saw the 400 flashing on the board ”
The unassuming 34 year old, has said on many occasions, that the lockdown period, where there was no cricket actually made him think as to what the game meant to him, and as to how lost he is without cricket. He utilized the ‘off’ time to work on his physical self and continue to polish his already seasoned cricket brain. He researched and focussed on what he could do to go notches higher.
“I worked very hard on my fitness during the lockdown to get the body ready for the next 3-4 years. This body is ageing. I lost about 7-8 kgs in the lockdown and everything looked upwards for me since the Australia tour. I don’t want to leave any stone unturned, so I watch hours of cricket and do my homework. So my understanding of the game has gone higher by watching so much cricket , and picking up cues on what the batsmen may do. One thing is sure I’ve always wanted to improve. I won’t be surprised if I improve further in the future”
This is one of the main ingredients in a champion player, the ability to accept that you are always a work in progress. That there is always scope for improvement. Ashwin, has always looked to outsmart the batter and on a pitch that favours guile and spin, it’s not surprising that he amasses wickets. At both the Chepauk and the new stadium at Motera, Ashwin used the conditions to the best of his ability.
“ We don’t crib about pitches that we get abroad, because we just get on with it. Its all about the mentality with which you face what is on offer. Change has been the only constant in my bowling. I have never shied away from trying something new, because you never know about tomorrow. Today is yours so you might as well go out there and explore.
I have learnt a lot on the way, and now at the stage I am in I can change different actions and loading points within an over. I am really enjoying bowling more than anything else.”
It has certainly not been a bed of roses. For someone who is so cerebrally inclined, peoples views and criticism of him has had an effect. He felt that he had to contend with all of that to prove time and again that he is made of the stuff that champions are made of.
“Everytime I pushed forward two steps, I would be pulled back four steps. As a cricketer, I have always had to prove people wrong. I have had to earn my stage. But everytime that stage to perform appears, I have grabbed it with both hands. I have never shied away from a challenge.”