Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Yasir Shah vs Ravi Ashwin: The Debate Continues...

By picking up his 100th test match wicket in the first test against the West Indies, Yasir Shah reached the landmark in just his 17th test match.

Only one bowler, George Lohmann, got there faster, while three other bowlers, Barnes, Turner, and Grimmett took the same number of matches. Yasir is the second spinner after Grimmett to achieve the feat in just 17 tests.

Not only did Yasir create a new Pakistan record, which was previously held by Saeed Ajmal (19 tests), he also created a new Asian record by getting there faster than India's Ravi Ashwin, who picked up his 100th test wicket in his 18th test.

Before the start of Pakistan's first test against the West Indies, Ashwin tweeted a good luck message to Yasir Shah, who was on the verge of breaking the Asian record.

Ashwin has recently been very gracious towards the Pakistanis. He also tweeted about wanting to watch Babar Azam bat.

After Yasir created the new record, Ashwin tweeted a congratulatory message as well.

While Yasir thanked Ashwin for his tweets, he also said that he would love to play against him in a test, which ended up stirring a debate among the public on who the better spinner is.

I also had a discussion on the same with a friend from across the border, who obviously thought that Yasir was no where close to Ashwin.

I don't hold that against him for Ashwin is currently the number 1 ranked bowler in test cricket and he also created a new Asian record by picking up his 200th test wicket in his 37th test, breaking Waqar Younis' record of reaching the landmark in 38 tests.

However, the best way to compare Yasir and Ashwin is to probably assess their performances at the same stage of their careers - 17 tests.

Not taking anything away from Ashwin, but Yasir does have more wickets at a better average and strike rate than Ashwin after 17 tests.

Currently, Ashwin has 220 wickets from 39 tests, so his 20 odd tests after the first 17 have definitely been better in terms of performance, but there is no way to tell which way Yasir Shah will go in his next 20 tests.

Given that India and the UAE are fortresses for the two great bowlers, I wanted to compare their performances away from home as well.

While Yasir's performance in tests away from home is quite similar to his overall record, there is quite a huge discrepancy in Ashwin's record.

Based on the above, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that majority of Ashwin's success has been driven by the dust bowls produced in India.

70% of Ashwin's wickets have come in India; he gives 9 runs less to pick up a wicket in India; and he bowls 13 fewer deliveries for a wicket in India.

Those are eye opening numbers.

Whether Ashwin would have taken as many wickets as he has if he was not playing tests in India is anybody's guess.

My guess is NO.

On the other hand, Yasir Shah has not played a single test in Pakistan. His success is built as much in the UAE as it is on foreign shores.

Sure Ashwin is the number 1 ranked bowler in tests, but Yasir is ahead of him at the 17-test mark, and Yasir is ahead of him in terms of overseas performance.

Taking nothing away from Ashwin's achievements, I wanted to close this debate by mentioning that Ashwin is the same bowler that Afridi hit for two sixes in the final over of the Asia Cup match in 2014 to take Pakistan to victory !

I will revisit this comparison when Yasir picks up his 200th test wicket; we will surely have a more clearer picture then, but for now, I am signing off by picking Yasir ahead of Ashwin.

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