Kanpur, Nov 30  India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has thanked Harbhajan Singh for inspiring him to bowl off-spin, saying that he picked up the ball only after seeing Bhajji’s “wonderful spell” against Australia in 2001.

Ashwin on Monday moved past Harbhajan’s tally of 417 wickets, becoming India’s third-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket at 419 on the final day of the opening Test against New Zealand at the Green Park here, which ended in a thrilling draw.

The 35-year-old had equalled Harbhajan’s tally of 417 wickets on November 28 after he dismissed Will Young on Day 4. Ashwin dismissed Tom Latham in the second innings of New Zealand to go past Harbhajan’s tally of 417 wickets in Tests.

“It’s a wonderful milestone. Harbhajan Singh, when he was bowling that wonderful spell against Australia in 2001, I never thought I would even be an off-spinner on that particular day. But inspired by him, I picked up the ball to bowl off-spin and here I am. Thank you for inspiring me Bhajji pa,” Ashwin said in a video shared by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Tuesday.

Ashwin is now behind Anil Kumble (619) and Kapil Dev (434) in India’s all-time list of highest Test wicket-takers.

Ashwin is the fourth Indian bowler to take more than 400 wickets. Monday’s achievement made him the 13th highest wicket-taker in Tests of all time, moving past Pakistan’s Wasim Akram (414). He is the third-highest wicket-taker in Tests among active cricketers, after English pace duo Stuart Broad and James Anderson, who have 524 and 632 wickets respectively.

Ashwin, who made his Test debut in November 2011 against the West Indies in New Delhi, has claimed his wickets at a strike rate of 52.4 and an average of 24.5.

Recollecting an incident during the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Shreyas Iyer who lit up Green Park with the bat, scoring a century and half century on debut, said that Ashwin had approached him at Wankhede then seeking his advice on the wind direction.

“In the second year of the IPL, I was the ball boy and Ashwin came to me asking ‘arre ek minute idhar aana, yeh hawa kaun se direction se aate hai, zara bata do (please come here for a minute and guide me in which direction the wind is blowing)’. So, I was very confident. I had played too many matches at the Wankhede at that point in time. I told him, ‘idhar se aata hai, idhar se… the sea is in this direction (The wind will flow in this direction as the sea is in this direction)’. So, the wind will come from that direction only,” recalled Iyer.

Ashwin also congratulated Iyer for becoming the first Indian to score a century and half-century on Test debut, saying, “Congratulation to you (Iyer) for becoming the first Indian to score a hundred and a half-century on Test debut. Looking forward to (you) scoring a hundred and taking the honours as well (in the second Test).”

Despite the achievement, Iyer is not a sure-shot selection for the second Test, given that Virat Kohli will return as skipper in Mumbai.

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