'Form is temporary, class is permanent" -- is perhaps best exemplified by Ravichandran Ashwin, who wanted to play the game "so badly" but was "kept out of it" -- until he came back strongly, to grab back a position where he "always belonged." Ashwin, who last played for India 10 months back, has every reason to feel "vindicated", after his seven-wicket haul in Vishakhapatnam Test match against South Africa on Friday. Ashwin is one wicket short of 350 Test wickets.
"It's great to be back playing cricket and taking those wickets. It has been very hard to stay away from playing international cricket. I had stopped watching Cricket. I just wanted to play for India again," Ashwin said this during a post-day media conference in Visakhapatnam.
Ashwin, who had last played an ODI for India in June 2017, was not included in the playing XI in the two-match Test series in West Indies. This came as a real shocker for a player who was nominated as ICC Cricketer of the Year and the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year for 2016 -- just 3 years back. Former India greats like Sunil Gavaskar and Erapali Prasanna have criticised Indian team management's decision to drop him from playing XI in Test series in West Indies.
While Gavaskar told the official broadcaster in mid-session chat: "Ashwin should be a certainty. The fact that he has not been made to feel the comfort level is the reason why we are seeing him struggle a little bit. I think there is more to it than just cricketing performances which is the reason he just finds himself sidelined more often than somebody with his record should be. Somebody who has got almost 350 wickets can't be sidelined as regularly as he has been."
Not many can match Ashwin's record -- having many first to his credit as well as being fastest to get 'those milestones.' For India, Ashwin is one of the fastest bowlers to scale the milestones of - 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300 wickets & now all set to get the 350 Test scalp in just 66 matches.
"He is a class act. He knows the art of taking wickets. There is no logic not to play him in Test cricket. He has won you so many matches. He has been a match-winner," Erapalli Prassana told Republic TV over the phone.
Among all the current & yesteryear Indian bowlers, his strike rate (balls are taken to get a wicket) is all-time best, average (runs per wicket) among the top two and economy rate (runs per over) also rank among the best five. Not just Test cricket, Ashwin has scalped 150 wickets in 111 ODIs and 52 wickets in 46 T20Is. And he is no mug with the bat either! He has scored 2,331 runs at an average of almost 30 runs with four Test centuries to his credit. Not long ago, he was considered to be a solid all-rounder who could get the 'break-throughs' and come up with a 'magical spell' and give much-needed solidity at the lower-middle order.
Is it his lack of athleticism, fielding limitations, introverted-aloofness or the inability to "gel well" with the captain & coach that have been the reasons for this sudden "non-preferential" treatment? This is perhaps a question, which will be summarily dismissed and put to the closet by the team management, but surely India will do well to give Ashwin -- the legend, a little more respect.