Ravichandran Ashwin has done well to match Ian Botham’s numbers at a similar stage of the legend’s career

Ravichandran Ashwin (left) has scored two centuries after 17 Tests, while Ian Botham had scored three tons after the same number of Tests © IANS and Getty Images

Ravichandran Ashwin’s current Test statistics are similar to Ian Botham’s at the same stage. Nishad Pai Vaidya examines the numbers and reveals why such statistics can be misleading.

Ravichandran Ashwin has been India’s go-to man in Test cricket since his debut. The off-spinner has been their main wicket-taking force with his subtle variations. The uncanny carrom ball and other tweakers cause the batsmen problems on the Indian surfaces. However, Ashwin also inspires confidence with the bat and is a very dependable man at No 8. His latest effort at Eden Gardens against the West Indies is yet another proof of his batting skills.
 
Ashwin is primarily picked as a bowler in the Indian side. His batting is a bonus. However, if one looks at Ashwin’s all-round stats, it compares well that great all-rounder Ian Botham’s at a similar stage.

Here are the numbers:

Batting:
 

  M R Ave 100s 50s HS
R Ashwin 17   740* 41.11 2 3 124
Ian Botham 17 791 35.95 3 3 108

*Stats at the end of India’s first innings at Kolkata.

Bowling:

  M W Ave BBI BBM 5WI 10WM
R Ashwin 17 94* 28.47 7/103 12/85 9 2
Ian Botham 17 87 18.68 8/34 11/140 8 1

*Stats updated till the end of the first innings of India-West Indies Test at Kolkata.

Ashwin’s 17th Test is yet to reach its conclusion and he might better his above numbers. The batting chart reveals that England legend Botham has more runs and centuries at the same stage. However, Ashwin’s average is superior. On the bowling front, Ashwin leads Botham by seven wickets and also trumps Botham on the fifers and 10-wicket match hauls count. But, Botham’s average of 18.68 is phenomenal and beats Ashwin by 10 notches. Plus, Ashwin had bowled over 920 overs when compared to Botham’s 637. Nevertheless, it is quite an achievement for Ashwin to go neck and neck with one of the game’s all-time greats.

“Statistics are like bikinis; what they reveal is exciting, but what’s concealed is vital!” It’s a cliché, but relevant in this comparison. The tables above do hide quite a few important factors for both players. Statistically, Ashwin may be ahead on a few counts, but there is a lot more to it than the numbers themselves. The most important detail it hides is the home-away factor. Ashwin has played 14 off his 17 Tests at home, whereas Botham played nine.

The relevant stats:
 
Home:

  M W Ave BBI BBM 5WI 10WM
R Ashwin 14 85 24.84 7/103 12/85 9 2
Ian Botham 8 47 15.91 8/34 11/140 6 1

Away:

  M W Ave BBI BBM 5WI 10WM
R Ashwin 3 9 62.77 3/81 5/267 0 0
Ian Botham 9 40 21.95 5/73 8/111 2 0

Ashwin’s three Tests overseas have been in Australia where he collected only nine wickets in five innings at an average of 62.77. Thus, the bulk of his 94 victims have come in helpful Indian conditions at an average of 24.84. In contrast, Botham had played nine Tests overseas — six in Australia and three in New Zealand. Although his average at home is better, the corresponding figure of 21.95 away is also a very good number. However, one might also say that Botham was a fast-bowler and conditions helped him in those two nations.

In a nutshell, a statistical comparison at such a stage can be flawed as it doesn’t take into account several important aspects. It is only over a period of time that players build their reputations by performing consistently at home and away. Ashwin has a long way to go and has to prove his mettle in conditions that are alien to his kind of bowling.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)