India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was non-committal about the choice of off-spinner against West Indies for the first cricket Test of three-match series, after his team swamped England by six wickets here last night to take a 4-0 lead in the ongoing ODI series. Asked whether Ravichandran Ashwin had done enough in the four matches (7 wickets, including a fine stint of 3-38 at Wankhede) so far to merit a place in the Test squad, Dhoni said he cannot talk about selection issues.
"Well, I don't really talk about selection. No point in talking about selection as that is something that gets discussed behind rooms between selectors. Let's see, he's done really well and that's what really matters," Dhoni said. Ashwin is the lone off-spinner in the ODI squad after the selection panel headed by Krishnamachari Srikkanth chose to ignore the vast experience of Harbhajan Singh following his modest returns in the two Tests he played in England before returning home because of a grade one abdominal muscle tear. The feisty 31-year-old Punjab bowler has not played for the country since then, though he led IPL side Mumbai Indians to their maiden Champions League T20 crown and followed that feat with leading India Red to a shared title with India Green in the 50-over Challenger Trophy. After yesterday's comprehensive victory, Dhoni was all praise for the way the spin duo of Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bowled to restrict England to a modest total of 220, and singled out the 25-year-old off break bowler's variations for special mention.
"Spinners have done a very good job in the series. In the first over Ashwin was expensive, but after that he bowled brilliantly. He got a bit of spin. He has got a few variations. Not to forget he bowled three overs in the first Powerplay and close to three in the second. Overall, he did a very good job," said Dhoni about his Chennai Super Kings teammate.
In his short international career, the tall Chennai-born Ashwin has grabbed 32 wickets from 20 ODIs since making his debut in June 2010 at Harare. Harbhajan, on the other hand, has 406 Test wickets from 98 games and 259 ODI wickets from 229 matches to his credit, a phenomenal record. He grabbed three for 32 and also made 49 not out for India Green against India Red in the Challenger final, after claiming 2-40 and 0-32 against India Blue and Red teams in earlier league ties. But he had had a poor outing in England, especially in the first Test at Lord's where he took only one wicket after giving away 218. He had figures of 1-22 and 0-47 in the two innings of the second match at Nottingham, before picking the abdominal injury. On the preceding visit to the Caribbean, he had secured 11 wickets in three Tests against the West Indies.