September 17, 1986, Madras (now Chennai), Tamil Nadu
Right hand Bat
Right arm Offbreak
R Ashwin took the tricks and skills he learned playing tennis-ball cricket on the streets of Chennai, particularly the soduku ball, a finger-flicked legbreak, to Test cricket, where he became perhaps the leading offspinner of the first quarter of the 21st century.
All through his career Ashwin has been a cricket nerd with a deep appreciation of the nuances of the game and an acute knowledge of his craft. And it was that sharp brain, along with the carrom ball, an equally good arm ball, and masterly control over his offbreaks that made him a quintessential limited-overs spinner early in his career. It was in Test cricket, though, that he became a force after he brought the full scope of his talents to bear on it.
His success was desperately needed by India in the time after Anil Kumble retired and Harbhajan Singh was on the wane. Ashwin took nine wickets in his maiden Test, in which he was Player of the Match. In his first 16 Tests he collected nine five-fors, and he went on to be the fastest to 300 wickets and the second fastest to 400, behind only Muthiah Muralidaran.
Among the highlights of Ashwin's Test career: 30 five-fors and counting, 90-odd wickets apiece against both Australia and England, and over 50 wickets a year four times. He reached his zenith in the 2016-17 home season, when he took 27 wickets in a three-Test series against New Zealand, 28 in five matches against England, six in a game against Bangladesh, and 21 against Australia in four Tests.
Ashwin was picked by Chennai Super Kings in the IPL in 2009, and was one of the rare players who came into the public's reckoning through the IPL and proved himself good enough to have great success in Test cricket. He spent six seasons at CSK, winning the title twice, bowling at the top and the death, and coming on when wickets were required. He was the Man of the Series in the 2010 Champions League in South Africa.
He was part of the winning squad in the 2011 World Cup, but got few chances in that tournament ahead of Harbhajan. In the 2015 tournament, he made up with 13 wickets from eight games in India's run to the semi-final. In T20Is his finest hour was the World Cup in 2014, when he took 4 for 11 against Australia, and 11 wickets in all in the tournament, where India lost in the final.
An opener with the bat before he took up offspin, Ashwin has been a more than handy lower-order batter, correct, possessed of shots, and with five Test hundreds to his name.
Batting & Fielding