R Ashwin will be featuring in his 50th Test when he steps on the field in Galle on July 26 as India play the first of the three-match series at the iconic venue in Sri Lanka.
From coming into the scene as a Twenty20 specialist to becoming the captain's go-to-man, Ashwin has come a long way in his seven-year-old international career. The tall off-spinner has astounding numbers against his name -- 25 five-wicket hauls, fastest in the world to reach 250 Test wickets are among a few.
The horror run
However, numbers always don't tell us the real story. There was a brief period in Ashwin's career, where he struggled to cope up with the pressures of Test cricket, struggling to strike a balance between classical off-spin bowling and the variations, that gave him a lot of success in shorter formats.
In the first Test of the two-match Test series against South Africa in December 2013, the Tamil Nadu off-spinner went wicketless for 36 overs in the second innings as the hosts went on to amass 450 runs in fourth-inning and secured a draw.
Ashwin faced the axe. He was out of the team for six straight Test matches and only returned to the team after an eight-month break in the fourth of a five-match series in England in August 2014.
In Virat Kohli's first Test as India captain -- 2014 Adelaide Test against Australia -- Ashwin lost his place in the side to newbie Karn Sharma. Despite making a comeback into the side, the off-spinner was struggling to be consistently threatening.
The Galle Test of 2015
It all changed when India visited Sri Lanka in 2015. Ashwin quashed all doubts about his ability to lead the pack and has been Kohli's wrecker-in-chief ever since.
Ashwin fondly remembers the opening Test in Galle when he picked up one of the seven 10-wicket-hauls in his career. Unlike the bowler of 2013 and 2014, the off-spinner was able to deceive batsmen with more traditional and classical approach.
"To come back to a place where I did really well last time in 2015 is like a dream come true because it was some sort of a momentous occasion for me then too," Ashwin said on Monday, as quoted by the bcci.tv.
"I was on the way back into the Test side and I got a six-for on the first day and went on to get a 10-for on the third day. It brings back a lot of good memories, coming back to the same venue," he added.
On the first day in Galle, Ashwin put on a spin-bowling masterclass. There was flight, dip, drift and what not as the off-spinner went on to dismiss six Sri Lankan batsmen. He followed it up with four more in the second innings, but India went on to lose the match after a fourth-innings batting collapse.
However, with 11 more wickets in the two matches that followed, Ashwin led India to a historic series win in the island nation. Sri Lanka witnessed the making of Ashwin 2.0, who would then go on to be a nightmare for opposition batsmen.
South Africa were the first of the many victims of the more confident and lethal Ashwin. The off-spinner decimated the visiting team with 31 wickets in the four-match series in 2015. He then picked up 72 wickets, the most by any bowler, in 2016.
Another milestone in sight
Ashwin is back in Galle on the back of a series-winning contribution against Australia earlier this year (21 wickets in three matches).
His bunny Kumar Sangakkara is not part of the Sri Lankan squad this time and home team are heading into the series on the back of a disastrous campaign at home against minnows Zimbabwe.
Unlike 2015, there will be less pressure on Ashwin. But, he just needs 25 wickets to become the fastest man to reach 300 Test wickets.
Isn't that enough motivation for the in-form spinner to go out and trouble Sri Lankan batsmen?