R Ashwin’s feat of scoring a century and picking up (at least) seven wickets in an innings in the same match – in the first Test against the West Indies in Antigua – left the cricketing world in a frenzy. Ashwin became only the third player in Test cricket history (after Jack Gregory and Ian Botham) to achieve this feat.
There have been only 32 instances (including Ashwin’s performance) of a player scoring a hundred and picking up a fifer in the same match in Test cricket. Just as a comparison, there have been 28 triple tons in Test cricket – that is how rare this performance was.
However, it is even more rare for this kind of a performance to have come in a support role.
First, the batting. Virat Kohli came out to bat at 74 for 2 in the first innings and within the context of the match, under some pressure (of falling wickets) as India still hadn’t stabilised their innings. Ashwin, on the other hand, came out to bat at a considerably more comfortable 236 for 4. Ashwin’s hundred in the first innings was a great support act – but not the primary knock that carried the innings and helped India post a huge total. Virat Kohli played that role. Moreover, Kohli scored 87 more runs than Ashwin in the match. Altogether, this meant that Kohli had an 82% higher impact with the bat than Ashwin.
With the ball, all seven of Ashwin’s wickets came in the West Indian second innings when the fate of the match was all but sealed. Furthermore, out of those seven wickets, three were of West Indian lower-order batsmen. Had he given this performance with the ball in the first innings and put West Indies in a situation where defeat was imminent (as Mohammed Shami did, with some help from Umesh Yadav), he would have emerged as the highest impact player of the match by some distance.
Ashwin therefore played a support role with the bat as well as the ball, without being a lead act in any. In fact, for the same reason, this is only Ashwin’s fifth-highest impact performance of his Test career and his highest overseas.
In the same vein that Ashwin played the role of an all-rounder, Kohli donned additional roles of being a captain while also effecting two catches as a fielder apart from being the lead act during India’s batting.
Overall then, Kohli had a 3% higher impact than Ashwin and should have therefore been the rightful Man of the Match.
Illustrations: Vasim Maner