It will be interesting to see how the Indian team management handles veteran Ashwin and emerging off-spinning all-rounder Sundar in the ODIs v Australia
Washington Sundar and Ravichandran Ashwin. Pics/Getty Images
There has been a lot of clamour for the inclusion of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in the Indian team for the upcoming World Cup. Ever since the provisional team of 15 was announced by the Indian selectors, both, the media and critics have been questioning the logic of having two of the ilk—Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel—in the squad, saying that the bowling attack needs variety. That’s when the name of Ashwin cropped up.
Axar’s triple injuries
However, a decision was already made and the Indian team management was earnestly preparing Axar for the mega event by giving him a chance to play in the XI at the recent Asia Cup. But as luck would have it, during the inconsequential match against Bangladesh, Axar suffered not one, but three injuries while batting. First, he was hit on the little finger, then a throw from the outfield struck his arm and finally, he suffered a Grade 2 muscle tear in his left thigh. This has put his chances of playing the World Cup in doubt.
The team management called up off-spinner Washington Sundar for the final as he was already training at the NCA in Bangalore. Sundar was played in the XI, but was not required to bat or bowl. So, things are back to square one as far as trying out an off-spinner is concerned. Now we see both, Ashwin and Sundar in the Indian team who are scheduled to play three ODIs against Australia over the next few days, with the first being here on Friday.
Tough choice for Dravid
KL Rahul, the stand-in captain for the first two ODIs and head coach Rahul Dravid will have a difficult choice to make between picking Sundar, an emergning off-spinning all-rounder, and Ashwin, who is on the final leg of a marvellous career.
The thing going against Ashwin is that since the Champions Trophy 2017 and subsequent tour of West Indies in June 2017, he has played just two ODIs in South Africa in January 2022. For over a year-and-a-half Ashwin has not appeared in the ODIs for the Men in Blue. His appearances in T20Is have also been rare. He is basically a Test bowler now and has excelled whenever he has got a chance to play in the XI, which is mostly on home pitches.
Captain Rohit Sharma, after the Asia Cup victory in Colombo, had told the media that’s he’s in touch with Ashwin and that “he is still in the scheme of things as far as the World Cup is concerned. Nobody is ruled out as of now.”
Of course, by then Axar had been ruled out of the first two ODIs against Australia. As things stand, Axar is provisionally in the team for the last ODI to be played in Rajkot on September 27. It will thus be a make-or-break moment for Axar, and also the team think-tank as September 27 is also the last date when changes can be made in the World Cup squad without the clearance of the ICC technical committee.
15 days to go
With just a fortnight left to the start of the World Cup, India are still in an experimenting stage, thanks to injuries to Axar and Shreyas Iyer. It will be interesting to see with both Sundar and Ashwin in the squad, who Dravid will prefer in the XI. It’s still not clear if the selectors have finally realised the need for an off-spinner in the squad, but it is going to be interesting to see how these two off-spinners, in contrasting stages of their respective careers, are handled over the next few days.