I was inspired by Harbhajan Singh’s famous spell against Australia in 2001: R Ashwin

When Tom Latham chopped Ravichandran Ashwin onto his stumps on the final day of the Kanpur Test, the off-spinner surpassed the legendary Harbhajan Singh’s tally of 417 Test wickets to become India’s third-leading wicket-taker in the longest format, only behind Anil Kumble (617) and Kapil Dev (434).

Ashwin termed the moment as a “wonderful milestone” while admitting – not for the first time – how Harbhajan, his role model, played a part in him becoming an off-spinner.

“These are numbers that are just happening because of the effort I have been putting in. I am trying to enjoy my game. I am not worried about what number I am surpassing; it is a wonderful milestone. When Harbhajan Singh bowled that famous spell against Australia in 2001, I did not think I would be an off-spinner one day,” Ashwin told Shreyas Iyer in a BCCI-posted video.

“I was inspired by him and here I am. Actually, I was more of a batter, and a lot of people know this story. After that 2001 Border-Gavaskar Trophy, I decided to take up spin bowling. That’s how I started, I have been on my action for a while, don’t know whether I can copy Harbhajan’s style now,” he added.

R Ashwin has been an absolute match-winner for India: Rahul Dravid

India head coach Rahul Dravid also praised Ashwin, highlighting how good he has been to have breached the staggering tally in merely 80 Tests. “Harbhajan was a really fine bowler, someone I’ve played a lot of cricket with. He was a terrific bowler for India and what Ashwin’s done to be able to go past in just 80 Test matches is a phenomenal achievement,” Dravid said in a virtual press meet after the Kanpur Test ended in a draw, as New Zealand pulled off a heist on the final day.

“Ashwin has been an absolute match-winner for India, even today you saw on this difficult wicket the way he pulled us back into the game (and also) on that third morning with that spell of 11 overs. And today just to keep us alive in the game is a tribute to his skill and ability,” Dravid added.

“I think he’s just evolved; he keeps growing. He’s one of those guys who keeps thinking about the game, keeps changing, keeps evolving. That’s why he’s got where he has. You don’t achieve what Ashwin has achieved without growing and improving and evolving. It’s a pleasure to have someone like him in the dressing room and to work with him. It’s phenomenal and really happy for what he’s achieved.”

Harbhajan, who last played a Test in August 2015 and held the position of being the third-highest Test wicket-taker for India for over half a decade, took to Twitter to congratulate Ashwin. “Congratulations @ashwinravi99 wish you many more brother. God bless, keep shining,” he wrote on November 29.