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It’s taken 80 years for one of the longest-standing records in world cricket to be challenged.
Charlie Grimmett, the legendary Aussie leg-spinner, was the fastest to 200 wickets in 1936, taking only 36 Tests to do it.
Ravichandran Ashwin almost pulled it off in 35 Tests this year. But for the two rained out Tests in the West Indies earlier this year, he would have potentially achieved this feat. Instead, he reached the milestone in 37 Tests when he took Ken Williamson’s wicket at Kanpur on Sep 24, 2016.
But it’s an achievement, which, by itself, merits some column space.
When Ashwin became the second-fastest man to this milestone, he leapfrogged some legends of the game who have gone on to greater things.
The next four names on that list read Dennis Lillee, Waqar Younis, Dale Steyn and Ian Botham. August company indeed!
Just to show even more clearly how significant the achievement is, Malcolm Marshall, Alan Donald, Shane Warne and Muralitharan all took 42 Tests to reach the landmark.
Ashwin has been an underrated bowler in India and abroad for much of his career. While he has created a niche for himself as a true all-rounder with an average with the bat of over 34 and four centuries to his name so far, he has quietly become a far better spinner than people realise, and India’s top strike bowler.
In that context, the leap to wicket 300 is an interesting one.
Dennis Lille stands tall at that landmark, having reached the 300 wicket mark in 56 Tests, A remarkable 18 Tests having elapsed between his 200th and 300 wickets.
Murali achieved this feat in an even more phenomenal 16 Tests, taking six wickets a match between his 200th and 300th victims. He stands in second place, having reached the landmark in 58 Tests.
Richard Hadlee sits in third place having got there in 61 Tests, taking just 17 Tests to get from 200 to 300.
I’ve nothing against these legends who stand so tall in the record books, but my money is on Ashwin sprinting to the finish line first, with ease, in the 300 wickets chase.
India has a mouth-watering list of Tests to play in the coming months at home. Ashwin will be in his element, and, on current form, he is likely to take the same time as Murali did to get from 200 to 300.
If I was a betting man, I would put my money on a Sri Lankan in late 2017 as the hapless victim that will remain in the record books for the next 80 years as Ashwin’s 300th scalp in his 53rd Test.
And that particular record will take a very long time to break.