India captain Virat Kohli lavished praise on spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on Monday after his 10-wicket match haul vindicated the hosts' decision to go into the series opener against New Zealand with an extra batsman.
Normally a steadfast advocate of a five-bowler attack in Tests, Kohli laid himself open to criticism when the team sacrificed leg-spinner Amit Mishra to make room for an extra batsman in Rohit Sharma.
Many questioned the wisdom of the move but with Ashwin claiming half the 20 Kiwi wickets that tumbled at Kanpur's Green Park Stadium, Kohli was a relieved man.
"He's been outstanding for the Indian team. If you see all the impact players in the world, I think he comes in the top three or four easily," Kohli told reporters after his team clinched India's 500th Test by 197 runs to go 1-0 up in the three-match series.
"The rankings, of which I'm not a big fan, suggest Ashwin is the best at the moment and there's no doubt that he is bowling wonderfully well for the past couple of years," Kohli said.
"It's priceless to have cricketers like that in your Test team, players who can give you balance with bat and ball. I wish he keeps nurturing his skills so that we can keep dominating Test matches."
Ashwin and left-armer Ravindra Jadeja shared 16 wickets in the spin-dominated contest in which the off-spinner become the second fastest to 200 Test wickets, achieving the feat in his 37th match.
Australian spinner Clarrie Grimmett took one Test fewer to reach the milestone.
Kohli said it was a smart decision to play another batsman, pointing to Sharma's unbeaten 68 in the second innings.
"The extra batsman helped. I mean Rohit got runs in the second innings, (and was) pretty solid with Jadeja. Both were able to play positively and gave us an hour extra to bowl at them."