Debutant off-spinner R Ashwin has impressed a lot of people with his match-winning haul in the first Test against the West Indies, and the chairman of the national selection committee is among them.
“To get nine wickets in the match, including six in the second innings, and winning the Man of the Match award on debut is a fantastic achievement,” Kris Srikkanth told HT over the phone on Wednesday, hours after India completed the five-wicket win.
“He’s got a lot of variations. He's tall, so he gets a lot of bounce. Especially on bouncy wickets, he can be very dangerous,” said Srikkanth, whose panel decided to blood Ashwin at the expense of the out-of-form Harbhajan Singh as India rebuild ahead of a tough tour to Australia at the end of the year.
Ashwin, only the third player to win the Man of the Match award on Test debut, had refused to compare himself with his senior at the end of Day 3, but Srikkanth mentioned Harbhajan to underscore the challenge Ashwin faced at Kotla. “To come in for someone like Harbhajan and do so well is wonderful.”
“The good thing about Ashwin is he loves challenges. With India 95 runs behind, the pressure was on them to keep the West Indies to a small total and Ashwin bundled them out.”
The Tamil Nadu bowler came into reckoning on the back of good performances in ODIs and in the Indian Premier League. “But Ashwin has done well in Duleep Trophy as well. And I don’t believe in branding someone a limited-over specialist, you have to give the player a chance (in the longest format) before you do that,” Srikkanth said.
The former India opener also praised left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha — “he bowled very well in the first innings and kept it tight from one end in the second” — and debutant pacer Umesh Yadav. “He bowled well on a flat wicket,” said Srikkanth about the quickie.
“Of course we should not jump the gun. They have a long way to go.”