Ravichandran Ashwin has been in thick of the things since his arrival in Team India in 2010. Since then he has become the leader of the Indian bowling pack and is expected to win matches for India, especially in test cricket, with the ball in his hand but his batting skills have always been less talked about. He has never been expected to do magic with the bat but slowly and gradually, he is proving his mettle in the batting department.
Why is he not just another tailender who can bat a bit?
While batting, Ashwin doesn’t look like a tailender. He has many elegant shots in his repertoire that only proper batsmen possess. He hits beautiful cover drives, straight drives, leg glances, and cuts. He is more like the old-fashioned batsmen who relies more on textbook shots than on unorthodox shots of the new age batsmen. No wonder that he is successful with the bat in Test cricket and not in the shorter formats of the game. He has, till now, played 33 Test and batted in 49 innings, scoring 1317 runs with 3 centuries and 6 half-centuries at an average of 33.76. These stats are not bad for a batsman who has batted at no 8 or no 9 most of his life and these stats can’t be of any tailender who can just bat a bit.
Most of the times when tailenders score 50 or above in Test cricket, two things are always common in their innings. One, they have much higher strike rate than rest of the batsmen and two, they go for the high-risk shots. They do not try to negotiate bowlers with textbook shots but they try to out-muscle them with the shot making. Therefore, reliability is not the term, which can be associated with the tailenders whereas Ashwin can be termed as reliable to some extent. He is known to grind on the field. He takes his time and is not pestered by the flurry of bouncers. He negotiates bowlers by playing risk-free traditional shots and has a better defensive technique than tailenders. Hence, Ravichandran Ashwin generates much more confidence in his batsmanship than any tailender. He has done it on swinging tracks of England, fast tracks of Australia and on spinning tracks of Sri Lanka. Out of his 9 above 50 innings, 4 have been scored outside India and not to forget his gritty and important 40s and 30s at Manchester, Melbourne, and Brisbane which is by no mean a feat that can be achieved by a tailender. Therefore, Ravichandran Ashwin certainly is more of a batsman than a tailender who can bat a bit.
Ashwin is as good as any bowler in the world so let us compare his batting skills to know where he stands in the group of all-rounders.
Comparison with Indian all-rounders
Let us compare Ravichandran Ashwin with Kapil Dev to look where is he heading ? Interestingly in first 33 Test, Kapil Dev had also batted for the same number of innings as Ashwin i.e 49. In those 49 innings, Kapil Dev made 1234 runs with 1 century and 6 half century at an average of 27.42. Kapil Dev went on to play 131 test and scored 5248 runs with 8 century and 27 half century at an average of 31.05 for India. Ashwin is in fact ahead of Kapil Dev at this point of time. He has scored more runs, more centuries and averages better than what Kapil Dev had in his first 33 Test.
Another Indian player who has made the name for himself as an all-rounder was Manoj Prabhakar. He played 39 Test matches and made 1600 runs with 1 century and 9 half century at an average of 32.65. Ravichandran Ashwin is no less than Manoj Prabhakar in batting stats. He averages better and has more centuries to his credit than Manoj Prabhakar.
Comparison with all time greats
Comparison with contemporaries
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Comparing Jacques Kallis and Ravichandran Ashwin would be stupidity as a player like Jacques Kallis comes not once in a decade or a generation but once in a century. He has been a phenomenon and beyond any comparison. Barring Jacques Kallis, Ravichandran Ashwin stands tall when compared to any other all-rounder, be it contemporary or all-time greats. Success of Ravichandran Ashwin as a batsman will not only depend on his capability with the bat but also on how much trust Captain and Coach has in him as a batsmen. By opting for 5 bowlers and putting Ravichandran Ashwin at number 6 in batting, Virat Kohli has shown ample faith in Ashwin’s batting.
Ashwin, on his part, has not disappointed Kohli in his first innings at number 6 batsman and has shown glimpses of how good an all-rounder he can become but he has to go a long way to be called as one of the best all-rounders that India produced. He certainly enjoys his batting and puts a price on his wicket. After the 1st test at Antigua, India is set to play 16 more Tests in this season and if Ashwin can notch up 700-800 runs in these 16 Tests to follow, Ashwin will be certainly called as one of the better all-rounders that India produced and all the indicators and comparisons scream that he would definitely do it.