S. SOORAJ | 17th June 2021

One piece of news that is certainly making the headlines for the past few days is Sanjay Manjrekar’s tweet about Ravichandran Ashwin. In case you missed it, according to the controversial commentator, Ravi Ashwin isn’t an all-time great yet.

Sanjay Manjrekar is no stranger to outlandish, controversial comments and this is the latest addition to his list, followed by his hot take on Ravindra Jadeja when he labelled him as a ‘bits and pieces cricketer’. We all know how that tale turned out.

But in Ravi Ashwin’s case, is he really an all-time great? Has the 34-year-old achieved enough to be part of a coveted list of the greatest cricketers of all time? He certainly has performed extremely well and has helped India win enough games over the years. But is that all it takes to become an all-time great? And how do we classify a cricketer as an all-time great?

There’s questions galore to be explored here instead of making this a black and white issue.

Let’s cut to the chase here- I most certainly believe Ashwin is already an all-time great, at least in the unlimited format of the game. Here’s dissecting why the man is synonymous with greatness.

Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t

Statistics may not always be the best barometer to measure the quality of a player but they go a long way in painting an unbiased picture, if picked and chosen fairly. And when it comes to statistics, Ashwin is quite easily one of the greatest spinners to ever grace the game.

He is currently the 3rd highest wicket-taking spinner for India in Tests with 409 wickets, only behind legends such as Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. Ash is the fastest Indian bowler to reach every milestone from 50 test wickets to 400, while also being the highest wicket-taking spinner among active players.

Already the 6th highest wicket-taking spinner of all time, he is only 25 wickets shy of Rangana Herath’s tally of 433 and 8 wickets behind Harbhajan Singh.

And given Ashwin’s brilliant blend of pedigree and longevity, it is only a matter of months before he ends up 4th on the all-time list.

In that case, only Muttiah Muralidharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble will be statistically ahead of him.

The fact that he has broken so many milestones and still has a sizeable chunk of his career to go makes an undeniably strong case.

A decade of unrivalled consistency

In the era where bowlers are being video-analysed by oppositions, spinners are having a torrid time in keeping their mystery a mystery. Ajantha Mendis and Sunil Narine can attest to that while Ravi Ashwin can’t relate.

He has been a world-class spinner for over a decade and only a select few have managed to do that. Ashwin’s nous of the game is similar to a seasoned coach’s and his relentlessness have played a crucial role in his longevity.

And what makes the World Cup champion continue to be a menace with the ball is his penchant for constant innovation. Ash conjures up new spells and tricks up his sleeve and will always target batsmen with a bag of variations that can make him impossible to read.

The Delhi Capitals spinner has been delivering in every kind of situation in every part of the world for a decade now and his dominance doesn’t look to stop anytime soon.

A winner? Check. A passenger? Never.

At the end of a cricketer’s career, all he/she is left with is the silverware they won. And we’re sure Ashwin needs more than a single trophy cabinet

Apart from being a member of the 2011 World Cup and 2013 Champions Trophy winning campaigns, Ash has played an instrumental role in India’s biggest series wins.

Ashwin was Dhoni’s go-to-man in the latter stages of the 2011 World Cup and he delivered

Emerging triumphant at the WTC final this year will be another feather to his cap. Ashwin was stunning throughout the WTC campaign, with 67 wickets in just 13 test matches.

And he hasn’t just proved himself in the spin-friendly Asian pitches. He has shone in the SENA countries as well; case in point, making the No. 1 ranked Test batsman in the world, Steve Smith dance to his tunes in Australia.

An Indian Test line-up that doesn’t feature Ashwin has a problem.

An underrated limited overs bowler

Sadly, Ashwin isn’t an option for limited-overs anymore. He hasn’t played a limited-overs game since 2017 and from the looks of it, it would take a miracle for him to return to the fold.

But that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that Ash was and will remain an ODI and T20 bowler of the highest order.

With India has struggling to find the ideal successor for Ashwin tells you all you need to know. Both Chahal and Kuldeep, who looked like the answers now have a million question marks thrown at them.

During Ashwin’s time in blue, he was an integral part of the ODI line-up for a period of 6 years. Maybe his questionable fielding was a final nail in the coffin, considering athleticism is an unquestionable facet of the modern game, especially under the Kohli reign.

Nevertheless, Ashwin is still the 4th highest wicket-taking spinner for India in ODIs and 2nd in T20s.

Misfortune and a flawed agenda is why he remains an unpopular pick for a return from exile for many.

Far from a slouch with a bat and that only adds to his legacy

Ashwin obviously isn’t one of the best all-rounders of all time but he certainly isn’t your average No.8 batsman. He has proven himself as a reliable lower-order batsman for the country.

With a total of 5 centuries and 11 fifties in tests, Ashwin can do the business when the going gets tough for the Men in Blue. His partnership with Hanuma Vihari at the SCG will go down as one of the grittiest displays we’ve witnessed in ages, especially from an injury-raved pair to save a Test.

Only Daniel Vettori has more centuries than Ravi Ashwin at No. 8. If that doesn’t make a case for Ashwin’s more than handy batting, then what does?

And it certainly adds to his legacy as it makes him so much more than such an exceptional spinner as he’s rescued India in situations no batsman would want to be in, let alone a tailender.

To sum things up…

To me, it would be a crime to not consider Ashwin as one of the all-time greats. And with around 5-6 years of cricket left in the tank for the expert spinner, he is only bound to break bigger barriers.

Sanjay, we can agree to disagree.

Read More