Ravichandran Ashwin claimed that Harbhajan Singh’s brilliant spell against Australia in Kolkata in 2001 encouraged him when he became India’s third-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket. On the final day of the Kanpur Test, Ashwin overtook Harbhajan Singh’s 417 wickets. The first Test of the two-match series between India and New Zealand in Kanpur finished in a tie, and one of the big highlights of the last day’s play was Ravichandran Ashwin overtaking Harbhajan Singh’s record of 417 wickets to become India’s third-highest wicket-taker in the longest format.

With three wickets each in both innings of the Test, Ashwin put the New Zealand batsman under strain. On Day 4, the off-spinner, who was playing in his 80th Test match, pulled level with Harbhajan Singh by scalping Will Young. Only legendary Kapil Dev (434) and Anil Kumble (419) have more Test wickets than Ashwin, who castled Tom Latham and eclipsed the Turbanator, and later removed Tom Blundell in the final session to secure his 419th Test wicket (619).

After the game, Ashwin discussed how he began his cricket career as a batsman, but was inspired by Harbhajan Singh’s legendary spell against Australia in the 2001 Kolkata Test and switched to off-spin bowling. Harbhajan Singh had taken India’s first-ever hat-trick on the first day of the historic Test and then took six wickets on the final day to lead India to an incredible victory. At the next Test, in Chennai, he took 15 wickets in two innings and scored the winning runs to give India a 2-1 series victory. In the three Tests, he took 32 wickets at an average of 17.03 runs per over.

“These are stats that have only come about as a result of the work I’ve put in. I’m attempting to have fun with my game. I’m not concerned with the number I’m approaching; it’s a beautiful achievement. I never imagined I’d be an off-spinner when Harbhajan Singh bowled that legendary spell against Australia in 2001”, in a video posted on bcci.tv, Ashwin told colleague Shreyas Iyer.

“He influenced me, and now I’m here. Actually, I was more of a batter, and this is a well-known fact. After winning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2001, I decided to try spin bowling. That’s how I got started; I’ve been working on my action for a while, but I’m not sure if I can now imitate Harbhajan’s manner.”

In the second innings, Ravindra Jadeja (4/40) and Ravichandran Ashwin bowled brilliant spells, but debutant Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel fought hard in the closing session to enable New Zealand to gain a draw in Kanpur. When asked about the match result, Ashwin said it was difficult to get over the first Test’s final result. In addition, the off-spinner recalls taking his 200th Test wicket on the same venue (dismissing Kane Williamson leg-before in 2016).

“It’s still settling in that we didn’t win, that we were so close but so far away. It was a difficult thing for me to overcome when it happened in Jamaica. As a bowler, it takes time for me to develop, and it just didn’t happen today “Ashwin stated.

“It’s a matter of pride, after all. You represent India; I took my 200th wicket on the same pitch, and I’ve now exceeded Harbhajan Singh’s total. I hadn’t played the previous Test in Christchurch before the COVID-19 outbreak, but God has been gracious to me, and I’ve been able to recover.”