Ravichandran Ashwin is only second behind Anil Kumble for the most international wickets across formats for the Indian cricket team from the time he made his debut in 2010.

But, the off-spinner who represents Tamil Nadu in the domestic circuit, never fancied spin bowling during his junior days. R. Ashwin, who plays for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, was a top-order batter for his state in age-group cricket and often used to open the innings for them.

Ashwin’s cricketing career has always been driven by constant learning and an affinity for experimentation. His out-of-the-box thinking came to the fore at a young age that sowed the seeds of an illustrious journey.

“My father always believed I would become a great batter and he envisioned me as an opener,” Ashwin told the Rajasthan Royals. “I was batting at number four for Tamil Nadu, (and) played U19 as a batter.”

But Ashwin decided to switch roles and took up spin bowling as he thought the competition was immense among batters to get into the Tamil Nadu Ranji Trophy team. Off-spin, according to Ashwin, gave him a better prospect to break into the side.

“One day, I told my father that I had started bowling off-spin and it is coming very well for me. And the only way I will break into the Tamil Nadu Ranji side is if I become an off-spinner.

“There was too much competition at the top of the order. Anirudha Srikkanth, who is Kris Srikkanth’s son, was doing well and that was a real problem for me. He was at the top of the order and I did not see myself breaking that, so I wanted to be an off-spinner,” quipped Ashwin.

Ashwin’s observation was sharp as the Tamil Nadu top-order was filled with heavyweights like Murali Vijay, S Badrinath and Dinesh Karthik at the time of his First-Class debut in 2006.

“My father literally crashed and asked what I was talking about. I worked hard at it and became an off-spinner and I still opened the batting.

“I had a mentor who told me bowling and batting don’t coincide, hence I can bat at number four and bowl several overs, which came as a fresh piece of advice.

“From there on I failed in the first five games as an opener. I went to number four and started bowling. My life changed for the next two years,'' Ashwin reflected.

Ashwin worked hard to develop his new-found bowling avatar, and he delivered results. He made his Ranji Trophy debut in 2006 before going on to impress Chennai Super Kings, who signed him for the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League in 2008.

However, Ashwin made his IPL debut in 2009 and won consecutive titles with CSK in 2010 and 2011. His exploits in the shorter formats opened the gates for him into the longer versions of the game.

Soon Ashwin was part of India’s 2011 World Cup winning squad and also made his Test debut later that year. Ashwin had a memorable start to his Test career against the West Indies in 2011, as he was adjudged the Player of the Match for his match-haul of 9/128.

The rest, as they say, is history.