On October 6, Ravichandran Ashwin created yet another record. He became the joint fastest, in terms of matches, to reach the 350-wicket mark. Interestingly, the man who holds the record alongside him is none other than Muttiah Muralitharan. Both off-spinners took 66 Tests to reach the monumental landmark.
So, the obvious question now arises: Can Ashwin do what was unimaginable? Can he break Muralitharan's record of most wickets in Test cricket – 800? One would think that the way Ashwin has progressed in his career, he is more likely than anyone else to reach this near-unreachable mark. But, when seen closely, it's not a straightforward equation.
Murali reached 400-wicket mark in his 72nd Test. This means that Ashwin will have to get 50 wickets in his next six Tests to beat the Sri Lankan's record for fastest to that landmark. So far, Ashwin has gone from strength to strength and raised the bar for many milestones. Becoming the fastest to 400 though, won't be easy.
Luckily for the Chennai-based offie, the next four Test matches for Team India are at home. Ashwin is almost certain to feature in all of them. Following them, India's next two Tests will be in New Zealand. That's where Ashwin may have a problem as Indian team has preferred Jadeja over him for overseas Tests in recent times.
But, let's talk about the issue of Ashwin's chances of breaking the world record. Murali reached the 400-wicket mark at the age of 29. The Indian tweaker, on the other hand, is already 33 years old. It is no secret that he is also not the fittest member of this super-fit Indian team.
Still, one cannot rule out the possibility of him remaining with the team for quite a few years to come. Murali retired at the age of 38, that is, around nine years after reaching Mt. 400. Ashwin, if he plays till he is 40, would have just seven more years to go from 350 to 800.
Currently, the man from Chennai is averaging 5.3 wickets per match. At this rate, he would need to play around 85 matches more to reach 800, that is, approximately, 12 Tests per year. In other words, time is against the Tamil Nadu cricketer.
There is another issue which would cause problems for the Indian offie. He has been rather ordinary when playing outside India. While Muralitharan also struggled in Australia – the place where his action was called into question – he was a threatening bowler in the rest of the world.
Ashwin, on the other hand, hasn't got the wickets India would need from him in countries like South Africa, England and Australia, even on pitches which were helpful. So, it would be even harder for him to get to Murali's mark.
All in all, Ashwin is racing through on the fast lane of success and is unlikely to stop, at least when playing in India, for some time to come. But from here on, keeping up with the legendary Sri Lankan spinner would be very tough.