Who is better Ashwin or Harbhajan?

The moment you ask any Indian cricket fan who is better Ashwin or Harbhajan? A serious debate based on some reasonably solid grounds will immediately begin. Opinions will be divided and arguments and counterarguments will be given in favour of either Harbhajan or Ashwin.

As Ravichandran Ashwin overtook Harbhajan Singh in Test cricket during the recently concluded match against the Kiwis in Kanpur. I thought of trying to find an answer to this question in this edition of Convos with Pratik Asthana.

Harbhajan Singh played most of his cricket along with Anil Kumble and both shared the wickets. If Harbhajan had played alone the tally might have been somewhere close to 600 and the same goes with Kumble.

On the other hand, Ravichandran Ashwin overtook Harbhajan Singh in 23 fewer games. Another point worth considering is the fact that now the Indian pace bowlers are taking as many wickets as spinners alone used to take. And if add Ravindra Jadeja, who has 200+ wickets in the mix. Then Ashwin looks ahead.

To dig further, let’s try and evaluate the performance of these two master craftsmen in South Africa, England, New Zealand, and Australia or SENA countries. In SENA countries, pitches are more conducive for fast bowlers and a spinner has to use all his expertise to earn a wicket unlike in the sub-continent.

Performance in SENA countries

In SENA countries, both Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh have also identical Test bowling records. Ashwin has better returns in England and Australia. Whereas, Harbhajan has a better record in South Africa and New Zealand. Both the off-spinners have almost the same number of wickets and a similar strike rate. However, Harbhajan edges Ashwin as a match-winner though with three 5-wicket hauls (add another two 4-fers) to Ashwin’s none (though Ashwin has four 4-fers). Besides Ashwin has a better bowling average to strengthen his case.

Ravichandran Ashwin in SENA countries
Country Wkts 5w 10w BBI Avg S/R E/R
AUS 39 0 0 4/55 42.15 86.26 2.93
ENG 18 0 0 4/62 28.11 66.72 2.53
NZL 3 0 0 3/99 33.00 58.00 3.41
RSA 7 0 0 4/113 46.14 101.57 2.73
Total 67 0 0 4/55 37.35 78.14 2.90
Harbhajan Singh in SENA countries
Country Wkts 5w/I 10w/M BBI Avg S/R E/R
AUS 9 0 0 3/101 73.22 126.00 3.49
ENG 14 1 0 5/115 49.79 88.00 3.39
NZL 21 1 0 6/63 24.19 61.05 2.38
RSA 18 1 0 7/120 34.00 63.78 3.20
Total 62 3 0 7/120 45.3 84.71 3.115

It is a never-ending debate as to who is better between Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin. Who may be better? Both are true greats to represent India. And Indian cricket has been blessed to see two great off-spinners over the last two decades or so.

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