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Test cricket is what life is: R Ashwin

His words should carry extra weight given that he didn’t allow the T20 arc light to sidetrack him from his ultimate goal of excelling in Tests

On winter mornings at Dharamsala’s HPCA Stadium, it can be hard to take your eyes off the snow-capped terrain and pay attention to proceedings on the field. On Thursday, however, the poignancy of R Ashwin being felicitated for his 100th Test on the outfield before the start of play, and the rousing speeches by the off-spinner and coach Rahul Dravid, meant that marvelling at the beautiful backdrop had to wait.

India’s Ravichandran Ashwin (R) bowls during the first day of the fifth and last Test cricket match between India and England at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala(AFP)

This was essential viewing for fans as well as young and aspiring cricketers, for two men who epitomise the values of Test cricket were taking centre stage to talk about the format’s primacy.

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Once Dravid presented a special cap to Ashwin to mark the occasion, the 37-year-old, flanked by his wife, two daughters and teammates, went on to thank his family members for their sacrifices before passing on a very important message at a time when there’s increasing worry about T20s overshadowing Test cricket .

“I would like to tell something to the entire cricketing fraternity in our country right now,” said Ashwin, his voice choked with emotion. “The IPL has been a hugely popular tournament. A lot of kids want to play T20 cricket, want to get into the IPL. I do really wish them well and hope they get there.

“But remember one thing, this format that we are proudly playing teaches you a lot of things that life wouldn’t teach you. Test cricket is what life is. It is the closest synergy that you can find to life. It teaches you adaptability, dealing with pressure, so on and so forth. I can go on for weeks. All those things will keep you in great stead if you decide to go all the way in this game. This great game will give you a lot of dividends for whatever work you put into it. I really hope a lot more people take up this sport and keep this wonderful format flying really high.”

While Ashwin had gone through the grind of first-class cricket in his formative years with Tamil Nadu, it was his stint with Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the IPL that had propelled him to prominence. His words should carry extra weight given that he didn’t allow the T20 arc light to sidetrack him from his ultimate goal of excelling in Tests.

Dravid, who was playing his 157th Test when Ashwin featured in his first against West Indies in Delhi in 2011, has observed the off-spinner’s journey as a senior teammate and now as a coach. By heaping lavish praise on Ashwin, Dravid was also underlining the qualities that go into the making of a great Test cricketer.

“People use the word ‘great’ too easily. Greatness is consistency over time. It comes from practice, it comes from constantly making changes, it comes from sacrifice, it comes from stubbornness, it comes from constantly evolving, growing, learning. It comes from giving everything that you have to a team and giving everything you have to a craft. And Ash, because you have faithfully done all of these things, you have arrived at a truly great place – your 100th Test. I know I speak on behalf of this whole team when I say this is a very popular and well-deserved achievement. It’s been a privilege to have played cricket with you, it’s been a privilege to have worked with you as a coach and it’s a privilege to hand over this cap to you. Very well done,” said Dravid.


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