Sun. Jun 13th, 2021

Off-spinner R. Ashwin will most likely end as the top wicket taker in World Test Championship (WTC) cycle after India’s final against New Zealand next month as the needs just four more wickets to surpass Australia speedster Pat Cummins who leads the tally of 70.

The Aussie pace bowler has picked his wickets in 14 Test matches whereas the wily Indian spinner has 67 scalps in 13 matches. So, when the WTC final gets underway, all eyes will be on him, provided he is picked in the XI, considering the spin options available to India.

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The New Zealander closest to him is Tim Southee, who has 51 wickets in 10 matches and unless he takes 20 wickets in the final, which is highly improbable, and Ashwin takes less than four, he will stay behind the Indian.

Ashwin has four four-wicket hauls in WTC so far, the same as fellow Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon who has 56 scalps.

Ashwin has played his WTC matches in India (9 Tests), Australia (3) and New Zealand (1). It is, therefore, no surprise that he has taken most of his wickets in India. He has picked 52 wickets at home and 15 overseas — 12 in Australia and three in New Zealand.

As many as 32 of his 52 wickets in WTC have come in the four-Test series this year. This, along with 181 runs in four innings, won him Man-of-the-Series award against England.

Bowling in England will, however, be a lot more different than in India. Since India will be playing the WTC final next month, the early part of England summer and with there being rain around, the conditions will most likely support the seam bowlers.

On Wednesday, Cummins said conditions in England would be more favourable to New Zealand than India.

Ashwin’s average in the lone Test he played in New Zealand as part of WTC cycle was an unimpressive 33.

However, Indians can draw some inspiration from the fact that they played in Southampton, the venue of the WTC final, only three years ago during the Test series against England, and ran the home side close before succumbing to a 60-run loss in fourth Test of the series.

Ashwin, who was part of that Test and bowled 51.4 overs for just three wickets, was completely overshadowed by Moeen Ali who took nine wickets to script an England win.

Moeen’s success though came towards the end of English summer in August-September when the wickets had become less seam-friendly.

Ashwin has played just six Test matches in England and picked 14 wickets at an average of 32.92 which is a shade better than his average in New Zealand (33) and far better than Australia (42.15) and South Africa (46.14).

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