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Tailor-made pitches bad for Ravichandran Ashwin's legacy

India Today logo India Today 28-09-2016

Ravichandran Ashwin has quickly established himself as India's premier spin bowler and has been the go-to man for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli for quite some time now. The ace off-spinner recently became the fastest Asian bowler to clinch 200 wickets during India's 500th Test at Kanpur and the second fastest overall to achieve the feat.

While he remains the most potent threat for India, some eyebrows are still raised when Ashwin goes abroad and bowls on fast and bouncy pitches outside the sub-continent. The 30-year-old's mind-blowing performance in the first Test against New Zealand at the Green Park stadium saw him pick up 10 wickets in the match which helped India register a 197-run victory on Sunday.

Ashwin's ten-wicket haul in the match was his fifth ten-for in Test cricket and he currently averages 16.46 with 28 wickets in just three games against the Black Caps. He now has 203 wickets from 37 matches at an impressive average of 25.06 with 19 five-fors in his kitty. His average is currently the best among the 19 India bowlers who have taken at least 100 Test wickets.

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His record in Asia stands at 159 wickets at an average of 20.58 which is only bettered by Pakistan legend Imran Khan, among bowlers who have taken atleast 100 wickets in Asia. Ashwin gets a wicket after every 44 deliveries which is also second best effort in the sub-continent behind another Pakistani legend Waqar Younis, who had a strike rate of 38.20.

The top-ranked all-rounder has been one of the Most Valuable Players for India in all formats but even after shattering so many records in his short six-year-old cricketing career, Ashwin is still considered a threat only on slow and low surfaces offering sharp turn. It's a different story altogether in places like Australia, South Africa and England.

Three years ago in December 2013, Ashwin had bowled 36 overs in a Test against the Proteas at Johannesburg and failed to pick up a single wicket for the team in the thrilling draw. He was then dropped for six overseas Tests after that including the tours of New Zealand and England which followed.

In the 13 matches that he has played outside the sub-continent, Ashwin has picked up just 41 wickets which includes the 17 wickets he got in a single series against the West Indies last month, where he sort of redeemed himself a little but still has a long way to go. His average and strike rates jump to 42.73 and 80.22 respectively with just 2 five-wicket hauls to his name. 

In stark contrast, his figures in India are as good as it gets. The Tamil Nadu cricketer has 136 wickets in 20 Tests at 21.04, including 14 instances of five-wicket hauls and four instances of 10 wickets or more in a Test match.

With his reign established in Asia, Ashwin now has to prove his mettle in countries like Australia, South Africa, England and New Zealand before he can be truly termed as a legend of the game.

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