Former India legspinner Anil Kumble has praised offspinner R Ashwin for his stellar show in the first Test against South Africa in Vizag, believing he is an integral part of the team and that his performance should put to rest doubts whether he’s India’s premier spinner in the longest format.

Ashwin finished with match figures of 8/189 playing his first Test for India since December last year. In the fist innings, he picked 7/145 and with the wicket of Theunis de Bruyn in the second, became the joint-fastest bowler to 350 Test wickets – 66 matches.

“You don’t want your premier spinner to be discussed before a Test series or a Test match, thinking about whether he’ll make it to the team,” Kumble told CricketNext. “I think it’s sad but he’s showed his class. He’s the fastest to 350 Test wickets, it’s something amazing. You know, I think Ashwin, not just as a bowler but as an allrounder, is an asset to the team. Him and Ravindra Jadeja will give you enough armoury with the spin and can also give you solid batting performances consistently, and they’ve done that in the lower-middle order for India.”

The combination of Ashwin and Jadeja has worked wonders for India. In 33 Tests they’ve played together, Ashwin and Jadeja have combined to claim 360 wickets at an average of 22. In this, they account for 25 five-fors and six ten-wicket-hauls. When Jadeja and Ashwin play together at home, the numbers are more impressive. Of the 29 matches, India have won 22 with 329 of 360 wickets coming at home. Between Ashwin and Jadeja, they’ve won seven Player of the Match awards.

Even though Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal are in the fray for the longer format, Kumble feels India don’t need to look beyond their trusted spin pair.

” I don’t see a reason why anyone needs to go beyond these two spinners unless there’s something else that you want to look for, or if one of them is not fully fit. If you’re considering a third spinner, then yes, Kuldeep is of course a genuine spinner, and you’d want a wrist spinner to be in your team. But having said that, Ashwin is your premier spinner and I’m certainly happy with what he’s done because you can’t stop people from discussing. But, now hopefully he would have shut them up. He’s a class act,” he said.

Kumble was pleased with Ashwin’s variations during the Vizag Test. On a flat wicket, Ashwin bowled on one side of the wicket. With consistent length, Ashwin didn’t experiment much except varying his pace.

“I think playing those four or five county matches leading up to this Test match certainly came in handy. You need those overs under your belt before you come on because in the last few months, he hasn’t played any cricket for India internationally so he was low on confidence. So, it was important that Ashwin got those overs under his belt and those subtle variation coming over the stumps, going around the stumps, angles, he uses them to fantastic effect,” Kumble added.

“The one that he got Markram out was a classical off spinner. So, you would want your classical off spinner to be getting those kind of wickets. In the first innings, you can’t get a better performance from Ashwin, yes you have to bowl a lot more overs and that is something he has understood as well in Test match cricket. On a flat wicket, you need to bowl 35-40 overs for you to pick up those fifers and that’s exactly what he did.”