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Opinion

Tamil Nadu finally gets the hero it craved and deserved

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Roar Guru
26th February, 2021
13

Mumbai, Karnataka, Delhi and Tamil Nadu are often referred to as the big boys of Indian domestic cricket.

Alongside winning many of India’s domestic titles, most of these sides produced some of India’s greatest cricketers: Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Sunil Gavaskar and Zaheer Khan from Mumbai, Anil Kumble, Gundappa Viswanath, Rahul Dravid and Javagal Srinath from Karnataka, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Bishan Bedi, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi from Delhi, and I could add Rishabh Pant in the future depending on the rest of his Test career.

For some reason, Tamil Nadu never managed to produce the same high level international stars the other big three teams have done for India. Maybe they didn’t get enough matches to prove their mettle as Test cricketers or were found wanting at Test level.

The first big name to come from Tamil Nadu was Krishnamachari Srikkanth. An aggressive opener, Srikkanth was well known for being a crowd puller with his array of attacking strokes and for top scoring in the 1983 World Cup final as India upset the West Indies. But a lack of consistency saw Srikkanth out of the Indian side more than the times he was in the team.

Off spinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, India’s current bowling coach Bharat Arun and opener WV Raman are just some examples from the ’80s of Tamil Nadu cricketers not carrying their first-class form into the international arena.

The same continued until the early 21st century as the likes of Dinesh Karthik, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Hemang Badani failed to make an impact as Indian Test cricketers. All of that slowly started to change in November 2011.

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On November 6, 2011, off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin became the 271st Indian to play Test cricket. Before his Test debut, Ashwin had taken 104 first-class wickets for Tamil Nadu at an average of 26.68, with a strike rate of 58 and an economy of 2.77.

It didn’t take him long to take his maiden Test five-for, taking a six-wicket haul on debut against the West Indies.

India bowler Ravi Ashwin

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Despite struggling at times in his initial years, Ashwin was still persisted with by the Indian selectors and finally got to play in front of his home ground in Chennai against Australia in February 2013.

At the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Ashwin tormented the Aussies, taking 12 wickets on the pitch where he’d toiled for countless hours in domestic cricket. Despite his success within Asia, Ashwin often was benched for India’s tours of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and England.

His first five-wicket haul outside of India came at the West Indies, taking 7-83 at Antigua in 2016. Ashwin’s career with the bat had also been solid, being promoted as India’s number six ahead of Wriddhiman Saha and Ravi Jadeja against the West Indies in 2016. He didn’t fail to deliver, scoring two hundreds in the series.

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A county stint with Worcestershire in the latter stages of the 2017 County Championship taught Ashwin the essence of patience on seamer-friendly wickets. This saw a massive improvement in the off spinner’s bowling.

In India’s tours of South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia from 2018 onwards, Ashwin’s lines and lengths were a lot tighter and suddenly Ravi Ashwin was a genuine threat in all conditions. But his batting suffered badly, failing to score a half century between 2018 and 2020.

Yet when it came to batting with a problematic back at the SCG earlier this year, a 128-ball rearguard consisting of 39 runs against Australia gave Ashwin some much needed confidence with the bat once again.

A month later he scored a quality hundred on a turner in Chennai, with his home crowd chanting his name throughout the Test.

In his 77th Test, Ashwin became the fourth Indian to take 400 Test wickets and the second off spinner to achieve this feat.

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Ravichandran Ashwin

(Photo by Peter Mundy/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In what’s been a wonderful career to date, Ashwin is the fastest Indian to take 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300 and 400 Test wickets in terms of innings bowled.

A match winner with both bat and ball, Ashwin is India’s greatest Test off spinner and India’s greatest Test all rounder after the legend that is Kapil Dev. If his body doesn’t let him down, there’s a fair chance that Ashwin will overtake Anil Kumble in terms of wickets taken and become India’s highest wicket taker in Test cricket.

The people of Tamil Nadu were so desperate to see one of their own succeed at the international level that when the Chennai Super Kings were formed, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina were unanimously declared the adopted sons of Tamil Nadu. But now they don’t need to worry about Dhoni and Raina.

From an opening batsman in the Chennai leagues as a junior to India’s greatest Test off spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin has fulfilled the dreams of many people in Tamil Nadu of becoming a successful international cricketer and inspired a new generation in Tamil Nadu.

Ravichandran Ashwin has taken 401 Test wickets and counting.