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Ashwin reflects on his journey ahead of momentous 100th Test

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Dharamsala: Speaking ahead of his 100th Test to be played against England in Dharamsala, Ravichandran Ashwin went down the memory lane of his career.

With 507 Test wickets at an average of 23.91, Ravichandran Ashwin is the second-most successful bowler in Indian Test history.

Every series seems to be an occasion for reaching greater heights. In this series itself, the veteran overtook India legend Anil Kumble’s record for most Test wickets in India and most five-wicket hauls for India.

And in Dharamsala, the spinner will mark yet another milestone by becoming the 14th Indian to feature in 100 Tests but the 37-year-old is treating this landmark occasion as just another match. While India has an unassailable lead of 3-1, there are important World Test Championship points on the line.

Speaking in the press conference ahead of the Test, Ashwin had his focus on continuing India’s winning run.

“It’s a pretty big occasion by the sounds of it and looks of it but it doesn’t change anything,” Ashwin said. “For playing a Test match, you need to play the same way. A 3-1 scoreline is on the board, and despite the scoreline, you want to win every Test match. Different challenges will be posed in this game.”

At the same time, he cherished his 13-year Test cricket journey, an ICC report said.

“It’s been a wonderful journey with lots of ups and downs. A lot of learning and a lot more will come through it. The game is the biggest thing as far as I am concerned it taught me a lot, and I cherish the journey it has given me,” he said.

The spinner marked India’s last Test series defeat at home, against England in 2012, as a big learning curve in his career. He picked 14 wickets in the four-Test series, which England took 2-1, at an average of 52.64. Ashwin stated how overcoming doubts about his place in the side helped him improve his game.

“One of the turning points of my life was the series where (Alastair Cook) came and made all those runs,” Ashwin added. “(Kevin) Pietersen also had a great game in Mumbai. It was talked about a lot at that time. That led up to the next series which we were going to play against Australia at home.

“And there was a lot of noise of me being left out of the team. At that time, it was a bit nervy because I had played three series. I had played in Australia, bowled well in Melbourne, and had a decent outing in Adelaide. I had been Player of the Series twice before that (the England series) and was on the verge of being left out,” he said.

“When I went back and reflected on it, one thing that dawned on me was what was wrong with me. And that was a very big lesson that I’ve kept with myself, all these years down the line is that whatever happens, we can hold a lot of complaints against somebody external, or we can blame it on another individual. But for me, if you looked internally, you can improve by at least, five percent,” Ashwin said.

“It’s been a motivating factor for me over the years, to reflect on the downs and work on it,” he said.

Ashwin recounted his three most memorable spells in Test cricket, two of which had come in Tests away from home.

“The one in Birmingham in 2018/19. I bowled in both the innings, when I got those three wickets on the morning of day three when England were 40 or 50 for three. I got seven in the game. I had almost bowled India to a victory but it didn’t happen,” Ashwin said.

“A Test match at Bangalore, where I bowled a spell on day two morning, not for many rewards. And day one in Centurion 2018/19, got a four-for, could’ve been a six or seven-fer but didn’t happen. There have been several five-fors and wins, but these stand out for how it came out of the hand and what it meant to you personally,” he said.

Ashwin credited his early experiences in Indian domestic cricket, both club and at the Ranji level, that helped hone his skills prior to his international debut.

“At the international level, I’ve bowled to Steve Smith, (Kane) Williamson, and Joe Root. I think they’re some of the finest batters going around. But before I played first-class and even in first-class cricket, I had the privilege of bowling to some of the gun batters of spin,” he said.

“I bowled to (Subramaniam) Badrinath in the nets, he was one of the greatest batters of spin. Then there’s Mithun Manhas from Delhi, and also Rajat Bhatia from Delhi, who were great batters of spin. I think they were some of the finest batters of spin, that I would’ve not liked to encounter in international cricket. They were my finishing school before I started playing international cricket,” Ashwin added.

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