Chennai Super Kings' Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Chennai Super Kings' Mahendra Singh Dhoni Image Credit: AFP

Chennai: Ace India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin thanked fellow cricketing stalwart and former captain MS Dhoni, stating that he was indebted to the latter for letting him bowl to explosive former West Indian opener Chris Gayle in the final of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

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In the IPL final in 2011 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Dhoni surprised fans and pundits by handing the new ball to 24-year-old Ashwin to bowl against the hard-hitting Caribbean batter.

Dhoni's gamble paid off as Ashwin removed Gayle, in what ended up being the turning point in the final. CSK's triumph at Chepuak helped shape Ashwin's career and saw him ace all three formats of cricket on the international stage in the coming years.

During a felicitation ceremony organised by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) on Saturday for reaching the landmark of 500 Test wickets, Ashwin reminisced about the moment Dhoni put his faith in him and he delivered.

"In 2008, I met all the greats (in the CSK dressing room), including Matthew Hayden and MS Dhoni. But I sat through (IPL) 2008. I was nobody then. I did not see myself playing in a team that had Muttiah Muralitharan back in the day," Ashwin said at the event.

"I wish to thank him (skipper Dhoni) from the bottom of my heart. I will forever be indebted to him for what he gave me. He gave me an opportunity with the new ball to go head-on with Chris Gayle and years later, Anil bhai (Anil Kumble) would be talking about that particular episode," he added.

Over the next decade, Ashwin became the second-highest Indian wicket-taker after the legendary Kumble and currently has 516 scalps to his name.

Ashwin's ability to constantly improve and reinvent his skills has played a crucial role in his success in international cricket.

"Anil bhai and Rahul (Dravid) bhai briefly mentioned that. It is very tough to win an argument with me. It is true because I believe argument is one of the greatest pathways to excellence. Argument is never with the person. It is always with the true learning that comes at the end of it," he said as Kumble watched on from the stage.

Ashwin received Rs 1 crore by the TNCA during the felicitation event.

"It's a truly emotional moment for me, and I really thank the TNCA and everybody involved who have done this. Thank you so much," Ashwin said.