ODI World Cup 2023: Close selection calls are par for course when it comes to World Cup squads
Washington Sundar, Ravichandran Ashwin (Pic: AFP)
ODI World Cup 2023: India's Test specialist Ravichandran Ashwin wouldn't possibly have envisaged that in six weeks time he would be summoned for a two-match trial against Washington Sundar, nearly a decade and half junior to him.
Close selection calls are par for course when it comes to World Cup squads. But just two weeks before the mega event, the Indian team management has called the two off-spinners for the three-match series against Australia to keep a ready back-up option in case Axar Patel's quadriceps tear doesn't heal on time.
It will be a virtual shoot-out and their performances on flat decks of Mohali and Rajkot will be monitored by Ajit Agarkar's selection committee.
"I think Ashwin will be slightly ahead now that a bowler of his stature has been called into the mix. I have always felt that Ashwin should have been in the mix from the time the team got into the ODI World Cup mode," said former chairman of selectors MSK Prasad, who was at helm when the 2019 squad was selected.
So, who will be his pick if Axar can't make it to the World Cup?
"Look, let us hope that Axar is fit for the final ODI in Rajkot. Because if he is fit, however well Ashwin or Washy bowl, it will be Axar who will retain his place. If he has been your pick ahead of these two, then you have to have him if he is good to go," Prasad set the record straight.
Harbhajan Singh, however, has a contrarian viewpoint. He believes that if the team management and selectors took an informed decision to summon Washington in Colombo for the Asia Cup final and even fielded him in the playing XI, then he should be the first-choice replacement.
"Washington bowls well in Powerplays. He is a brilliant fielder and last but not the least is a left-hander in that lower middle order. So, he does come as a package," said Harbhajan.
Another national selector, who refused to be named, had an interesting take on the Washington vs Ashwin debate.
"No offence meant but Axar's supposed hamstring injury could just be a blessing in disguise. The decision to have a right-arm finger spinner should have been taken long back and now, perhaps, at eleventh hour, they have got that opportunity," the selector, who has seen some pitched battles between previous captains and selection committees, said.
(With PTI inputs)