Ravichandran Ashwin was hardly known beyond the Tamil Nadu cricketing circles just two years ago but with his performance in his debut series against West Indies with bat, ball and brain will hardly be forgotten for a long time to come. Ashwin’s debut series had all that he could have asked for and more from not one but two five-wicket hauls, first Test century, Man of the Match and Man of the Series award apart from making sure India did not falter at the final hurdle in Mumbai.
Essentially he is a right arm off-break bowler and started out playing for the IPL franchisee Chennai Super Kings. He rose among the ranks to earn himself a place in the National side making his international debut against Sri Lanka in June, 2010. He won the Champions League 2010 for Chennai Superkings being the highest wicket-taker of the tournament. He was adjudged the Player of the Tournament and also won the Golden Wicket. He was the man who Captain Dhoni could go to incase he needed a quick breakthrough or slower the run-rate.
Ashwin is the only other International cricketer apart from Sri Lankan Ajantha Mendis to bowl the carom-ball and the recent series against West Indies proved his class as he finished with 2 five-wicket hauls in three Tests. Ashwin has also fancied himself as a batsman though he bats as low as No.8 and has a history of opening the batting in junior cricket. In his first-class cricketing days for Tamil Nadu, Coach W.V Raman remembers him as an offie who came upto him and said “Sir, I think I can bat”. He always wanted to be an all-rounder and Raman said he can be considered if he scores a century and picks five wickets in a Test match thrice.
In the Mumbai Test, the whole world was waiting for Sachin to score his hundredth century as India was chasing a mammoth 590 runs. Ashwin was just 3 years old when Tendulkar made his International debut and the match proved to be heart-break for Tendulkar as he was dismissed at 94 and joy for Ashwin who scored his maiden century shortening the West Indies’ lead greatly. His innings was most unexpected and came at a time when India needed someone who stood upto the pressure and played the way he did.
With his third first-class century he proved to be on his way to becoming a great all-rounder according to his state Coach and his task wasn’t done yet. On Day 5, West Indies fell like a pack of cards and India sniffed victory right when the Indians kept losing wickets and were so close to losing when Ishant Sharma fell at 239-8. It was all up to the first innings centurion R Ashwin to save the match and he did it with tact. Anything was possible in the last over as West Indies were just two wickets away from a win and the Indian tail-enders had too much to do.
Ashwin took it upon himself to save the match as all the West Indians closed in and Fidel Edwards speeded in. Ashwin had two balls to score two runs and he realized that if suppose he lost his wicket trying to score of the penultimate delivery, the chances of Ojha getting out of the last ball was enormous so he played for a draw rather than a win. He defended the penultimate ball and thus saved the game for India now he had the last ball to win it for India which was too much to ask of him. Still the right-hander tried his best but could only manage a single and the match ended in a spectacular draw.
India was so close to victory when the middle-order collapsed from a position of strength and had Ashwin not played cleverly, a heart-break was inevitable. He was quick to think on his feet and had the commentators, viewers and opposition baffled as he defended the penultimate ball rather than going for a victory at high costs, only to be the hero for saving the match for India and announcing his arrival in the international platform.