R Ashwin had picked up a sports hernia during England’s tour of India and continued to bowl despite the pain. He managed to pull through the one-off Test match against Bangladesh and the four-Test series against Australia but was ruled out of the IPL 2017 season because of the injury.
Washington Sundar, all of 17, who bats left-handed and bowls right-arm off-spin, was confirmed as R Ashwin’s replacement by Rising Pune Supergiants ahead of their T20 season opener against Mumbai Indians in the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Thursday.
Washington Sundar had been called in for trials on April 2 along with Jammu & Kashmir’s all-rounder Parvez Rasool.
He had to pit his skill against the likes of RPS captain Steve Smith and IPL’s highest paid foreign player Ben Stokes to prove his mettle, eventually edging out the experienced Rasool for a place in the squad.
Washington Sundar expressed how the difficult trials and coming through them victorious had added to his sense of self-belief.
“I’m feeling really excited to see this new world (IPL). Ashwin is a legend and getting a chance to be part of the team in place of him is a big thing for me. After getting this opportunity, I have gained more belief in my hard work,” Washington has been quoted as saying.
“There wasn’t much pressure. I have been bowling really well and I knew I would be able to do well in the trial. I was up against Stokes and Smith. I got Smith bowled.
“Though it was in a practice session, I felt good to have dismissed a legend like him. I also managed to keep things tidy against Stokes who was looking to be at his aggressive best. Those things gave me confidence,” he added.
Sundar also had a chance to bowl to former India captain MS Dhoni who showered him with words of appreciation.
“I bowled to Dhoni for a long time yesterday in the nets. He gave me advice and appreciated me a few times,” he said.
With Ravichandran Ashwin having bowled 4430 deliveries in 13 Tests in the 2016-17 season — more than any other bowler has done in a single season in the history of the game — and collected 82 wickets in the process, Sundar has big shoes to fill.
He will join Rising Pune Supergiants spin department which already features Imran Tahir, Adam Zampa, Ankit Sharma, and B Aparajith.
World No 1 ODI and T20I bowler Imran Tahir had been drafted into the side after Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh had been ruled out of the season because of injury.
KNOW WASHINGTON SUNDAR
The Tamil Nadu all-rounder is coming into the IPL after a terrific domestic season. He showed promise at an early age and started playing in the senior division league in Chennai at the age of 11.
Last year, Washington Sundar helped the Indian side reach the final of the Under-19 World Cup with his off-spin bowling and performances in the middle order.
He began the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy season as an opening batsman, making his first-class debut for Tamil Nadu against Mumbai.
Sundar picked up seven wickets for Tamil Nadu but was dropped from the side after five games because of a failure to score a half-century after seven innings.
He did not feature in the inter-state zonal Twenty20 championship, but was key to Tamil Nadu winning the Vijay Hazare Trophy and Deohar Trophy.
Sundar has scored 85 runs and taken seven wickets (at an economy of 3.93 runs per over) in nine List A matches in the past season.
He came to the limelight after a successful stint in the inaugural Tamil Nadu Premier League last year. He scored 140 runs and claimed 11 wickets in nine matches to help the TUTI Patriots win the league.
His best bowling performance was against Dindigul Dragons when he scalped 4 for 23 runs in a 38-run win.