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Ashwin vs Tendulkar, Gavaskar, Kapil and more: India spinner primed to outshine all 100-Test GOATS in Dharamsala?

What are the chances of Ravichandran Ashwin having the perfect 100th Test, in comparison to how some of India’s legends have fared? Let’s find out.

Milestone matches aren’t necessarily breeding grounds for success stories. Perhaps it’s because of the emotion of the occasion, perhaps it’s the way of the whimsical cricketing Gods to keep the milestone man grounded, perhaps it’s just the very nature of the sport.

Will Ravichandran Ashwin have the best 100th Test by an Indian? (AP)

Take Cheteshwar Pujara, for instance, the last Indian to play 100 Tests. Pujara’s big moment came a year back, in February 2023 against Australia in Delhi, but all it netted him was a seven-ball blob in the first innings. The celebrated No. 3 did redeem himself in the second, with an unbeaten 31 during a tricky but eventually successful chase of 115 on a dodgy surface.

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On Thursday in Dharamsala, Ravichandran Ashwin will become the 14th Indian, and the first since Pujara, to make a 100th Test appearance. Over the last decade and a bit, the 37-year-old practical man from Chennai has largely kept his emotions in check and approached every task with an analytical rather than sentimental bent of mind. While he will be delighted to have come this far – his earliest ambition was to play one Test – he will not dwell excessively on making a statement in his moment of glory because, according to him, there is a ‘Test match to win’.

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Ashwin had played party pooper in senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh’s 100th game, against Australia in Chennai in February 2013. In what was the final affirmation of the comprehensive passing of the baton, the younger off-spinner snaffled 12 wickets at his home ground, leaving the Turbanator to pick up the pieces. Despite his ‘great memory’ – Ashwin’s words, not ours – that match is unlikely to invade his mind space. But who wouldn’t want to walk away with the plaudits in an encounter as significant as one’s 100th?

How the first few Indians to 100 Tests performed on the occasion?

Sunil Gavaskar was the first Indian to reach that landmark, against Pakistan in Lahore in 1984. All told, it wasn’t the worst of times – the little big man scored an innings-high 48 (in India’s dismal 156) in the first dig and weighed in with 37 as the visitors eked out a draw. Dilip Vengsarkar wasn’t as fortunate, dismissed for 25 and 0 as he oversaw a 179-run hammering at the hands of New Zealand in Mumbai in 1988. That he was the captain and India surrendered tamely to the Kiwis at his home ground added to Vengsarkar’s woes.

Kapil Dev, the third Indian in that elite club, has always been a doer, and he heralded his 100th outing with a match haul of eight wickets – he completed 350 Test wickets in that game – and a half-century from No. 8 in the drawn encounter against Pakistan in Faisalabad in 1989, a match remembered for the Test debut of a certain Sachin Tendulkar.

To no one’s surprise, Tendulkar was the next Indian in the 100 club in 2002, triggering a sequence that saw four others (Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman) emulate him in the next six years. Tendulkar made a half-century in the draw against England at The Oval, Kumble took a five-for against Sri Lanka in Ahmedabad (2005) and Laxman chipped in with 64 during the convincing win against Australia in Nagpur (2008). But there was no such joy for Dravid and Ganguly; like Vengsarkar, skipper Dravid saw his side slump to a 212-run loss to England in 2006 in Mumbai, while Ganguly’s 100th was even more dispiriting, India smashed by 337 runs in Melbourne (2007).

Ashwin played Test cricket alongside Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman; at the time, he wouldn’t have imagined that reams would be written about him a decade on, or that he would go on to become one of Indian cricket’s modern giants, alongside Virat Kohli. The latter kept his tryst with 100 in Mohali against Sri Lanka (2022), marking the occasion with 45 and crossing 8,000 Test runs in an easy Indian win, but like Tendulkar, he failed to leave a lasting impression.

Don’t count out Ashwin from doing so, however. After a tepid series, he rediscovered his bite in the second innings of the last game in Ranchi. He will relish the opportunity to showcase his wares in conditions that many feel will assist the faster bowlers. To him, the HPCA Stadium is another canvas where he can produce emphatic, decisive brushstrokes that will eventually develop into a masterpiece. Ashwin is one of only three Indians in this squad to have played a Test in Dharamsala – fellow spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav kept him company in 2017 contest against Australia – and will be determined to draw from that experience to make it 4-1 for the hosts. What odds against him doing precisely that?


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