ICC World Cup: Now that Ravi Ashwin is in the mix, go for him

If the senior off spinner makes the cut, he will be only the second survivor apart from Virat Kohli from the Class of 2011

Ravichandran Ashwin (Photo: Twitter/ @mufaddal_vohra)
Ravichandran Ashwin (Photo: Twitter/ @mufaddal_vohra)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Last Sunday, Ravichandran Ashwin celebrated his 37th birthday – perhaps unaware that his best gift was around the corner. After being out of Team India’s one-day plans since two stray matches against South Africa in January, 2022, the most decorated spinner of the country after Anil Kumble is back in the mix for the ICC World Cup.   

The veteran has been drafted in the ODI squad for a three-match series against a full-strength Australian squad, which will be landing in India on the World Cup duty. A surprise of surprises, in light of the fact that Ashwin was not in the Asia Cup squad as well and had been out of reckoning for this format since the 2017 Champions Trophy in England.     

Is the team management, then, trying to do a course correction by first flying in off spinner-allrounder Washington Sundar when Axar Patel sustained an injury during the Asia Cup and now recalled the veteran? If there was a major question mark with the World Cup squad named on September 5, it was the lack of an off spinner with India opting for three left-arm spinners – including chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav. 

Here’s what Ajit Agarkar, the chairman of selectors, had to say then: ‘’As for spinners, there were discussions and both (Ravindra Jadeja and Patel) offer depth in batting and bowling and they can take the ball away. We ideally wanted an offspinner but this gives balance. We are happy with the bowlers we have.’’     

Are they now looking at options between Ashwin and Sundar? Nothing wrong with second thoughts as the BCCI have got a deadline till September 28 to amend the squad, but there seems to be an ambivalence when skipper Rohit Sharma said after the selection: ‘’Both Ashwin and Washington are back-ups. Axar (Patel) should be okay with time. If the need arises, we will take a call.” 

The team management is certainly not liable to lay all their cards on the table, but simple cricketing logic says that the squad is missing an offspinner. It looks thin on spin options to be precise and should India decide to play three slow bowlers against teams like England, Australia or South Africa, they will have no option but to play Jadeja, Patel and Kuldeep only. Unlike the 2011 World Cup where a number of their top batters offered decent spin options (Sachin Tendulkar, Virendra Sehwag or Player of the Tournament Yuvraj Singh), none of India’s current crop of top batters are bowlers. 

Now that he’s in the mix, it’s a no-brainer to go with Ashwin. The reasons are not emotional really – in the pressure cooker situation of playing the 50-overs World Cup at home after 12 years, he will be invaluable with his ability to bowl at the powerplay and come back in the middle overs with his bag of tricks. It’s a wait-and-watch scenario for the team management as of now should Patel be eventually declared fit but then – the ideal playing XI should be available for a tournament of this stature.     

If Ashwin makes the cut – it will make him only the second survivor of the Class of 2011 in this squad apart from Virat Kohli. For now, Rahul Dravid & co will only be testing his readiness against Australia – a situation with which Ashwin is no stranger though!

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Published: 20 Sep 2023, 8:26 AM