Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar has caused another storm on social media with his comments that veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is not an all-time great.

Ashwin is the sixth-most successful spinner ever with 409 Test wickets, but Manjrekar said that his lack of five-wicket hauls in South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia, which comprise the SENA countries, was a problem.

"When people start talking about him as being one of the all-time greats of the game then I have a few problems. One basic problem I have with Ashwin is that when you look at SENA countries, Ashwin doesn't have a single five-wicket haul there,” Manjrekar said during a discussion on ESPNcricinfo.

Ashwin averages 40.11 in SENA nations, having taken 63 wickets in 20 Tests with a best of 4/55. In comparison, Anil Kumble took 141 wickets from 35 Tests in SENA nations at an average of 37.04 with five five-wicket hauls, while Harbhajan Singh had 62 from 19 Tests at 39.93 with three five-fors.

Manjrekar added, “The other thing when you talk about him running through sides on Indian pitches that are suited to his kind of bowling is that in the last four years, (Ravindra) Jadeja has matched him with wicket-taking abilities. Then, interestingly, in the last series against England, Axar Patel got more wickets than Ashwin on similar pitches. So that is my problem with accepting Ashwin as a real all-time great.”

Sanjay Manjrekar further explained his stand in a tweet: “‘All-time great’ is the highest praise & acknowledgement given to a cricketer. Cricketers like Don Bradman, Sobers, Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Virat etc are all time greats in my book. With due respect, Ashwin not quite there as an all-time great yet.”

Former Australia skipper Ian Chappell, who was also part of the ESPNcricinfo discussion, disagreed with Manjrekar. Chappell gave the example of the fearsome West Indies fast bowler Joel Garner, who had only seven five-wicket hauls in a career that fetched him 259 wickets in 58 Tests at an average of just 20.97.

“I would like to make a couple of points there — if you look at Joel Garner, I mean how many five-wicket hauls Joel Garner has? Not many, when you consider how good he was and his record. And why, because he was performing with three other very, very fine players,” Chappell said. “And I think, particularly of late, I find that the Indian attack has been so strong that the wickets are being shared around more.

“And the other point I would make is because of Ashwin’s reputation I think the England players probably concentrated more on keeping Ashwin out and with Axar Patel, well, let’s be blunt about it, they didn’t have a bloody clue,” Chappell added.

At the moment, Ashwin stands behind Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Kumble, Rangana Herath and Harbhajan in the most successful Test spinners’ list. All the five are retired and Ashwin is likely to go past Harbhajan (417) and Herath (433) soon.

Featured photo: ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP