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Ashwin: 'It's been a dreamy ride. It's been a fairy tale'

In his last six Tests, Ashwin has taken 36 wickets to jump from 365 wickets into the 400-club.

Varun Shetty
Varun Shetty
R Ashwin described the last few months in Test cricket as a fairytale after becoming the fourth Indian to 400 wickets, and the fourth-fastest overall (in terms of balls) to the mark in Tests. Speaking in the aftermath of India's 10-wicket win against England in Ahmedabad, Ashwin spoke of not being sure of even having a spot in the XI before India's Test tour of Australia began in December. Since then, in six Tests, Ashwin has taken 36 wickets to jump from 365 wickets into the 400-club.
"It feels amazing, the way the board was flashing 400 wickets, the entire stadium stood up and clapped for me," Ashwin said in a post-match interview with broadcaster Star Sports. "It's quite pleasant that it happened in a winning cause because in the middle when we collapsed for about 145, I thought we might not have enough of a lead on the board and the game could be in the balance.
"I can't really get a grip of what's happened in the last 2-3 months. If I look back, I must say it's been sort of a dreamy ride, it's been a fairytale. When I started the Aussie tour, I didn't expect to be playing in the XI because Jadeja was looking like he was going to start. And he got a hamstring tear and since then things have just looked upwards."
Ashwin spoke of a conversation he had had with captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri at the start of the Australian series, where it was hinted to him that he would need to work on his batting to be in the scheme for selection, as they'd seen something "special" in his bowling.
"When I landed in Australia, the first session of practice in Sydney was quite interesting," he said. "I thought I was bowling really well during the IPL as well - and when I reached Australia, both Virat and Ravi bhai were having a chat with me about how I should get my batting going, because both of them thought they had seen something happening in my bowling which looked really special.
"I don't know what they thought or what they saw or what they felt, but they thought I was bowling really well. And you know, during the lockdown as well, I worked a lot on my fitness. On wanting to get my body ready for the so-called "next couple of years" or the next 3-4 years. Because you know this body is ageing by the moment, as we're all those things started to pay rewards, I lost about 7-8 kilos through the lockdown. I just think from Australia onwards things have looked upwards for me."
Since then, Ashwin has been one of the foremost performers for India with ball and, at least on two occasions, with the bat. The recent stretch towards 400 has included getting the better of Steven Smith regularly at the start of the series in Australia, a first England Test of bowling more than 72 overs, and a complete domination over them in the last few innings of this series. The 34-year-old, when asked if he is at his best, said he is confident there is more to come.
"This question has been asked quite a few times in my career," he said. "In 2015-16 people were asking me the same thing when I went through that lovely phase in 15-16-17. And now people are asking the same. One thing's for sure - I've always looked to improve and every time I've thought I've bowled well, I've always found another gear. So I'll not be surprised if I surpass myself in the future as well."
"Gonna call him legend"
Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma were effusive in their praise of Ashwin after the match ended, with Kohli saying Ashwin was a modern-day legend.
"It's unbelievable," Kohli said. "We all need to stand up and take notice of Ashwin's contribution to Indian cricket. I told him that from now on, I'll call him ledge [for legend]. Getting 400 is an outstanding achievement, and still so many games and years to go for India. In Test match cricket, he is surely a modern legend and we're just lucky to have him in our team. As a captain I am so pleased he plays for us."
At the post-match press conference, Rohit suggested that the offspinner might be India's greatest match-winner.
"Ashwin is probably one of our matchwinners, if not the matchwinner of Indian cricket history. He has won so many games for us. So getting to that milestone, big, big congratulations to him. To do that in his 77th Test match, which is second fastest to 400, is a great feat."

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo