Kanpur - Skipper Virat Kohli hailed Ravichandran Ashwin as
"priceless" after he spun India to victory on Monday over New Zealand,
saying the off-spinner was one of cricket's ultimate match-winners and sharpest
Ashwin claimed six second innings wickets as India bowled
out New Zealand for 236 on the fifth and final day of the first Test in Kanpur
-- his 19th five-wicket haul in Tests.
The 30-year-old finally put the tourists out of their misery
when he dismissed Neil Wagner lbw for a duck with the Black Caps still 197 runs
short of their target, giving him overall match figures of 10-225.
The innings was all the more memorable for Ashwin as his
dismissal of Black Caps' skipper Kane Williamson meant that he became the
second fastest bowler of all time to claim 200 Test wickets.
By reaching the milestone in what is only his 37th match,
Ashwin has outdone many of the greats of the game such as Sri Lanka's
record-breaking spinner Muttiah Muralitharan who took 42 Tests.
"He's been outstanding for the Indian team but if you
see all the impact players in the world, he comes in the top three-four
easily," Kohli told reporters after the match.
"There are quite a few players making big impact for
their respective sides. Especially bowlers. Bowlers are the one I feel that win
you Test matches and Ashwin is one of them."
Ashwin, who also contributed with a valuable 40-run knock in
India's first innings score of 318, has been the team's go-to man in recent
times with both bat and ball.
On the recent tour of the West Indies, Ashwin scored two
centuries as well as taking 17 wickets.
"It's priceless to have a cricketer like Ashwin in your
Test team. He gives balance with both bat and ball," said Kohli.
"He's a very keen thinker of the game. He likes to talk
cricket. He understands the game very well. Very smart cricketer, very intelligent."
Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja shared 16 wickets between them in
the match to flatten the New Zealand batting at Kanpur's Green Park.
Man of the match Jadeja, who registered a five-wicket haul
in the first innings, also contributed with unbeaten scores of 42 and 50 in the
first and second innings respectively.
"Both of them are pretty open to hearing suggestions,
but when they feel like they are very convinced about what they want to do,
they tell you that. And I personally like that as a captain as well,"
Ashwin also dismissed Williamson in the first innings to
leave the New Zealand skipper in no doubt about his quality.
Both were beautiful deliveries that spun from outside the
off stump to deceive Williamson.
"They were pretty good balls, and he is a pretty good
bowler. In these conditions there is certainly more spin so you do take those
things into account," Williamson said in praise of the Indian spinner.
Mitchell Santner led the New Zealand spin attack with
courage after taking three and two wickets in the first and second innings
Indian-born leg-spinner Ish Sodhi also chipped in with three
wickets in the match and Williamson believes the talented spinners can take a
cue from their Indian counterparts.
"Being over here in these hot conditions being able to
remain focused for a long period because you know if you put the ball in the
area for long enough, you'll get your rewards. That's what the Indian team
showed us," said Williamson.