Struggling R Ashwin has not been given his full quota of overs by Rising Pune Supergiants captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a few IPL matches this season but former India pacer Ajit Agarkar does not view it as a sign of lack of faith in the off-spinner.
Asked whether Dhoni lacked faith in Ashwin, Agarkar said it was mainly to do with the match conditions and situations than anything else. "At times it may seem odd but I don't think it is due to any lack of faith. When Pune came to Mumbai (to take on Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium last month), it was a seamers' wicket and Ashwin's bowling was not needed," Agarkar told reporters today at a meet and greet session.
Ashwin bowled just one over for one wicket in that IPL opener on April 9 that RPS won easily after restricting the home team and title holders to 121 for 8. "You have to remember that when the IPL games were played in spin-friendly conditions in Chennai, he used to open the bowling. The conditions matter," Agarkar added.
Agarkar is among the four-member ex-cricketers' panel - Australia's Dirk Nannes, South Africa's Darryl Cullinan and New Zealand's Iain O'Brien being the others - which conducts the IPL-related show "The Friendly Toast", presented by cricket website ESPNCricinfo, daily on Sony ESPN channel.
A controversy had arisen post the World T20 championship in which India were knocked out by eventual champions West Indies in the semi final here on March 31 after Ashwin bowled only two overs for 20 runs in the power-play and then was not brought on to bowl again by Dhoni.
Ashwin got peeved when asked about it at the pre-match media conference here before RPS took on Mumbai Indians and gave a tongue lashing to the journalist who had asked the question whether he found it difficult to bowl following the dew-fall, the reason cited by Dhoni for the ineffectiveness of the Indian spinners.
"When there was dew, I didn't bowl. It's better you ask the question to someone who actually bowled. To be very honest, I don't know how it felt with the dew on. It's very amusing. Because in the first 12 balls I bowled, I created a wicket-opportunity as well. It's quite surprising how you phrase your question," India's top spin bowler had retorted.
The raging debate has continued with Dhoni not utilising Ashwin's bowling to the fullest extent in the IPL too so far. He has bowled 30 overs in 10 games, instead of the full quota of 40, and has only three wickets to show for. In the last game that RPS lost against Royal Challlengers Bangalore on May 7, the off spinner was brought on to bowl the 17th over for a lost cause as RCB easily chased RPS's total of 191 with seven wickets and three balls to spare.
Meanwhile, another former pacer - left arm bowler Nannes, was of the opinion that normal playing conditions would be rolled out in future, in comparison to the greenish pitch at Adelaide on which Australia played against Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in the epoch-making first-ever day-night Test match last November.
"I was there and it was a greenish-looking pitch that never deteriorated and the outfield was also green. They (authorities) did not want the (pink) ball to lose its colour quickly. But going forward I expect normal Test playing conditions (in future day-night games)," said the former Australia left-arm pacer.
In a low-scoring game, Australia came out on top of New Zealand by three wickets in the history-making third and final Test to clinch the rubber 2-0 last November.
Asked which South African, from his era, would have been an ideal T20 player, 49-year-old Cullinan said former Proteas' skipper, the late Hansie Cronje, would have fitted the bill.
"Hansie Cronje would have been a very good T20 player. He could hit big shots and bowl tight spells. Others such as Allan Donald and Jonty Rhodes would also have done well," said the one-time stylish batsman who amassed over 4500 runs in 70 Tests for his country before retiring in 2001.