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IND vs ENG fifth Test | For now, it is time for Ashwin to aim for the stars in the Himalayan skies

Magical mark: Ashwin would hope to put in a performance worthy of his landmark game.
| Photo Credit: R.V. MOORTHY

When India and England step onto the turf at the HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala on Thursday, R. Ashwin will scale another peak. It is a rare high that may well give a complex to the Dhauladhar range, part of the Himalayas, that serves as a backdrop to a picturesque cricketing venue.

A 100 Tests is never an easy landmark especially in a format that gets the rough end of sporting itineraries besotted with the transient pleasures and commercial heft of ODIs and T20s. A 100 Tests also demand excellence spilling well past a decade of top-flight cricket so that the selectors remain interested.

Ashwin has done remarkably well to flourish this long, spinning an eternal web and to also cope with the fact that at times while playing overseas, he may not necessarily be the first-choice spinner. If the musical chairs abroad are between him and Ravindra Jadeja, earlier Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh too dealt with the same issue.

Ashwin becomes the 14th Indian to get to the coveted milestone, a statistical nugget that was first scaled by Sunil Gavaskar back in the 1980s.

The wily off-spinner along with Kumble and Harbhajan are the only purveyors of the slow-art in this Indian list headlined by maestro Sachin Tendulkar with 200 Tests, a world record that may never get breached.

Not many have spoken extensively about spin bowling like how Ashwin has done over the years. He creates a mystique akin to the late Shane Warne as new deliveries are invented both at nets and in games, and they are spoken about. This is a star, who bequeaths nightmares to rival batters on match-eve.

Every Indian spinner steps in with the weight of legacy hampering their minds and spinning fingers. Often talk would veer towards the remarkable quartet of the 1970s when Bishan Singh Bedi and his comrades drew circles around befuddled rivals. In their own ways, Kumble, Harbhajan and Ashwin, have broken through the shadows cast by past-masters, and carved a unique niche.

With 507 Test wickets, Ashwin is one of India’s greatest players. Equally he has scored 3309 runs and it is a tally which could have been more, considering his batting skill-sets.

However, like Kapil Dev, perhaps the man from Chennai drew more joy from the art of getting wickets. For now, it is time for Ashwin to aim for the stars under the Himalayan skies.

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