OFF-SPINNER Ravichandran Ashwin on Thursday became only the second Indian, after the legendary Bishan Singh Bedi, to be ranked as the No.1 bowler in Tests in the latest International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings released on Thursday.
Ashwin achieved the top spot for the first time in his career after injury prevented South African Dale Steyn from bowling more than 3.5 overs in England's second innings in the Durban Test.
Even though the fast bowler bagged four wickets in the first innings, it wasn't enough for him to end the year as the No.1 bowler for the sixth time since 2009, and the position went to the Chennai man. Steyn had started the Durban Test leading Ashwin by four points and now trails the Indian tweaker by the same margin.
The 29-year-old Ashwin has become the first Indian since Bedi in 1973 to achieve the milestone of finishing the year as No.1. In fact, Bedi, an ICC Hall of Famer, is the only Indian to ever top the Test bowling table while Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble peaked at No.2 during their careers.
Ashwin finished 2015 as the most successful bowler with 62 wickets in nine Tests and this is reflected in his ranking after he started the year in 15th and slowly but surely moved to the top.
In the past decade, Australian Shane Warne finished in the top spot in 2005 and Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralidaran completed a hat-trick from 2006 to 2008 before Steyn got his grip on the top spot which was only broken in 2013 when his teammate Vernon Philander topped the table.
"Finishing the year as the No.1 ranked Test bowler is like an icing on the cake that I have managed to build over the past 12 months. I always wanted to get there one day. There can't be a better way to finish 2015," Ashwin said.
"Replicating what Mr. Bedi did is something I am very proud of. The former India captain was a master at his craft and I am very humbled to follow in his footsteps. I would like to thank my Test captain Virat Kohli, who has been a big influence, and, of course, the team management, my teammates and the BCCI for their continued support."
The only other Indian in the top-10 bowlers' list is Ravindra Jadeja, who also rose a spot to be ranked No.6.
Ashwin, for the second time in three years, also finished as the No.1 ranked Test all-rounder with Jadeja in fifth.
Meanwhile, Australian captain Steve Smith, who last week won the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the Cricketer of the Year as well as the Test Cricketer of the Year awards, has jumped three spots to become the No.1 ranked batsman in Tests.
There are no Indians in the top-10 list of Test batsmen.
Top-10 Test batsmen:
1. Steve Smith (Aus) 899 points
2. Kane Williamson (NZ) 889
3. Joe Root (Eng) 888
4. AB de Villiers (SA) 877
5. David Warner (Aus) 827
6. Younus Khan (Pak) 826
7. Angelo Mathews (SL) 808
8. Hashim Amla (SA) 774
9. Misbah-ul-Haq (Pak) 764
10. Alastair Cook (Eng) 764
Top-10 Test bowlers:
1. Ravichandran Ashwin (Ind) 871 points
2. Dale Steyn (SA) 867
3. Stuart Broad (Eng) 859
4. Yasir Shah (Pak) 846
5. James Anderson (Eng) 838
6. Ravindra Jadeja (Ind) 789
7. Trent Boult (NZ) 787
8. Josh Hazlewood (Aus) 752
9. Vernon Philander (SA) 739
10. Tim Southee (NZ) 731
Top-5 Test all-rounders:
1. Ravichandran Ashwin (Ind) 406 points
2. Shakib Al Hasan (Ban) 384
3. Stuart Broad (Eng) 326
4. Vernon Philander (SA) 293
5. Ravindra Jadeja (Ind) 259