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Indebted to MS Dhoni for the rest of my life: Ashwin

Source: PTI
Last updated on: March 16, 2024 23:58 IST
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IMAGE: Tamil Nadu Cricket Association felicitated R Ashwin to celebrate his 100th Test and 500 Test wickets . Photograph: TNCA/X

Overwhelmed by emotion and filled with gratitude at being grandly feted for hitting the 500-wicket mark in Tests, Ravichandran Ashwin on Saturday recalled the one man he would forever be "indebted to" for showing faith in a "nobody" 13 years ago -- his first IPL and India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.


With 516 scalps in 100 Tests, Ashwin is a bonafide superstar in Indian cricket, just second behind the great Anil Kumble in the list of top Indian wicket-takers in the five-day format.

But it was not the case back in 2008 when he was roped in as a local spinner by Chennai Super Kings. He did not get a game that year as the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan led their spin attack.

Dhoni flung the new ball to Ashwin in the 2011 IPL final against Royal Challengers Bangalore and the then rookie off-spinner made an impact in the fourth ball itself, dismissing an in-form Chris Gayle.

‘In 2008, I met all the greats’

The same year he made his India debut under Dhoni, picking up the player of the match honours in the game against the West Indies in Delhi.

"In 2008 I met all the greats (in CSK dressing room) Mathew Hayden and  MS Dhoni. I sat through (IPL) 2008. I was a nobody then, where am I to play in a team that had Muttiah Muralitharan," said Ashwin, who was felicitated by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association in a grand ceremony for his rare achievements, in a dipped-in-emotion voice.

"I am indebted to Dhoni for the rest of my life for what he gave me. He gave me an opportunity with the new ball to go head on with Chris Gayle and 17 years later Anil bhai would be talking about the same episode," he fondly recalled.

That magical Chepauk night for Chennai Super Kings was just a beginning for Ashwin. With several current and former stars paying tributes to him, Ashwin understandably felt overwhelmed.

"I don't generally search for words to express how I feel. I am truly humbled and grateful to be here," he quipped.

‘Tough to win an argument with me’

The 37-year-old Chennai man is among the finest thinkers of the game and he has found a way to constantly reinvent himself, resulting in a bagful of wickets in the longest format.

He described himself as argumentative but only in pursuit of new perspectives.

"Anil bhai and Rahul (Dravid) bhai briefly mentioned that it is very tough to win an argument with me. It is true because I believe argument is one of the greatest pathways to excellence.

"Argument is never with the person. It is always with the true learning that comes at the end of it," he said as Kumble watched on from the stage.

Ashwin also thanked a host of Tamil Nadu greats, who were in attendance, including his first First-Class captain S Badrinath and former batter S Sharath, who is now an India selector.

Ashwin, who is especially lethal against the left-handers, recalled how Sharath helped him become a better bowler against the southpaws.

"A lot of people spoke about how I tormented left-handers day in and day out. My first tryst with left handers, Mr S Sharath is sitting in the front. Someone told me if you are that good an off-spinner try and get this man out.

"I did get him out once, caught at slip and I played several more games with Sharath, he never got out to me again. That's the quality of the batter he was. I bowled to him a lot and hence became a far better bowler to the left-handers.

‘Tomorrow, I might not be alive but my soul will be hanging around this place’

Such is Ashwin's commitment to Tamil Nadu and club cricket that till date he makes himself available for domestic events when he is not on national duty.

"This place has given me so much that I want to keep coming back here. People keep asking why do you want to go back.

"Tomorrow, I might not be alive but my soul will be hanging around this place. This is what this place means to me," added Ashwin.

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