The dream team
With Ashwin and Jadeja in their element, India are almost impossible to beat at home
They don't send the stumps flying like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and aren't as electrifying to watch as Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were, but R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, when operating together in India, make life just as difficult for batters.
And that is something the Australians will vouch for. The first full series they played together was against Australia in 2012-13 at home. Ashwin finished with 29 wickets, Jadeja pocketed 24 wickets and the Ash-Jaddu partnership was born. The Michael Clarke-led side was whitewashed 4-0.
Since that series taking India on at home has been a nightmare for opposition batting line-ups. The best-laid plans are often of no consequence. Driven by the ambition of ending India’s domination, the current Australian team was among the best prepared to visit in recent years. They put up a tremendous fight, but again came a cropper against the spin duo as Ashwin bagged 25 wickets and Jadeja picked up 22.
As the Border-Gavaskar series ended, Australia’s main batter and stand-in captain Steve Smith said it was very difficult to beat India in India with Ashwin-Jadeja in the side.
“India are a quality side, they have got two tremendous spin bowlers (Ashwin and Jadeja), two who have done it for a very long time. They are very, very difficult to beat, especially in India," said Smith.
In terms of win percentage when they play together, Ashwin-Jadeja are the most successful pair in the history of Test cricket with 72 percent. They have claimed 478 wickets together, in 47 Tests, at an average of 21.62. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh have taken more wickets operating as a pair, 501 from 54 Tests, but their win percentage is 39 and their average 30.23.
In 47 matches they have played together, Ashwin has 259 wickets (average 22.22) while Jadeja has picked 219 wickets at an average of 20.89. Out of their 478, 428 wickets (avg 20.9) have come at home, showing their domination at home while also shedding light on how their opportunities away from home have been limited.
Smith was referring to the duo’s record against Australia at home. In 12 Tests, they have taken 148 wickets at an average of 19.78.
To be fair, the current captains have the backing of the Indian cricket board and can get pitches tailormade to suit the spinners. Comparatively, during the Kumble-Harbhajan pair’s time, the demand for turners was not always met. The just-concluded series was played on turning tracks, and so was the 2013 series. But one still needs to make the most of the conditions on offer and Ashwin and Jadeja have done that brilliantly.
The Warne-McGrath pairing has put up some incredible numbers. They took 1001 wickets and had a win percentage of 68 -- numbers that are a testament to their genius and their longevity. James Anderson-Stuart Broad have more wickets, 1017, but their win percentage falls to 44.
It was fitting that they were named joint players of the series against Australia. Over the last couple of seasons, Ashwin said he has started to recognise how they won’t be as effective without the other.
"It has been a great journey. We (himself and Jadeja) started a long time ago but we wouldn't be the same or lethal enough without the other. We need to recognise that, at least I have started recognising that over the last 2-3 years," Ashwin told the official broadcaster after the game.
Explaining what makes them click as a combination, the ace off-spinner said: “He gives me a lot of freedom to be creative with the ball. Jaddu keeps it really simple, he does not fret around or bother about what has happened.”
“The conversations have been a lot more in the last 2-3 years because I know how to communicate and what are his likes, his dislikes and even knowing what will help him. Even he has adapted beautifully to the chop and change, during the series when (Travis) Head was going, Khawaja was playing (in the fourth Test), we had a lot of good conversations and some of them ended up with wickets and some of them are quite funny.”
Jadeja said he benefits most from Ashwin’s deep knowledge and it helps in coming up with a gameplan against a particular batter. “It feels good bowling with him. He (Ashwin) is passing on information. What field to have, how to bowl to a particular batsman. He is more of everything... He has a good cricketing brain. He knows every team in the world and every series that is being played.”
Ashwin-Jadeja have made their captains look better – M S Dhoni in 2012-13, Virat Kohli in 2016-17 and Rohit Sharma in 2022-23. Rohit said: "Where we stand today in terms of how we perform in the Indian conditions, a lot of credit goes to them. A large part of our success belongs to those two guys. It’s not just for a period of a few years, it's over a decade now. It’s a long, long time to keep performing the way these two guys have done for us. I can only hope that they continue to play for as long as possible because those shoes will definitely be very, very big to fill.”