Last Updated: September 19, 2023, 08:06 IST
In the past six years, Ravichandran Ashwin has played just two ODIs for India even though he has been a consistent presence in their Test setup. A day after he turned 37, the offspinner was handed an ODI return for a three-match series against Australia at home.
Ashwin wasn’t picked in India’s squad for the ODI World Cup and for obvious reasons. However, eyebrows were raised when the team didn’t pick a single offspinner for the marquee tournament to be played at home.
An injury to World Cup-bound Axar Patel during the Asia Cup though has opened up a potential spot and in the unfortunate event of the allrounder not recovering, the vacancy will require a replacement.
As of now, the Indian team seem to be leaning on Washington Sundar, an allrounder himself who bowls off-spin. He flew to Sri Lanka just a day before the Asia Cup final and was named in the playing XI for the title clash too.
Ashwin and Sundar are part of all three matches of the Australia ODIs even though India have announced two separate squads for the first two games and the final contest.
However, the question arises: If Ashwin was indeed part of the plan, did the team management leave it so late for him to be given a look when there were ample opportunities earlier this year?
India captain Rohit Sharma says the reason is simple: Ashwin’s vast experience and the fact that he’s been playing cricket consistently, maybe not in one-dayers for India, but in other formats.
“With the kind of experience Ashwin has, he has played close to 100 Tests (94), close to 150 ODIs (113). Yes, it was all in the past but he has been consistently playing Test cricket. With guys like Ashwin, having time on the ground is not so much of a concern which is why we thought if he’s an option, we need to get him in. But with the kind of experience he has, for guys like him it’s all in the head more than the body,” Rohit said on Monday.
“So, we made the decision of speaking to him, understanding where he’s at with his body. It’s not like he’s not been playing cricket. Yes, he hasn’t played the format but he’s been playing. He played in the West Indies, and played in TNPL – no comparison but still some cricket. Games here against Australia will give us a chance to look where he’s at, how’s he bowling, how his body is feeling,” he added.
India have rested in-form Kuldeep Yadav for the first two matches but Rohit isn’t worried about the spinner losing his rhythm.
“We know Kuldeep is a wrist spinner and for him remaining in rhythm is very important. We did think about his good bowling. Like Ajit (Agarkar) said at the start we wanted to give chances to other players who didn’t get to play much during Asia Cup and are in our World Cup squad,” Rohit said.
Rohit admitted that with India slated to face Australia in their World Cup campaign opener, they didn’t want them to get used to Kuldeep as well.
“We have been watching Kuldeep for the past one-and-a-half year. Of course, not exposing him (to Australia) is one of the reasons. He will be playing the final match. There are several reasons and looking at them, it was best to rest him for the first two matches. Then we have a couple of practice matches too so there’s time for him to get into the rhythm,” he said.