Focus again on Ashwin in final ODI before World Cup | Crickit

Focus again on R Ashwin as Rohit Sharma returns to lead India against Australia in final ODI before World Cup

By, New Delhi
Sep 26, 2023 11:47 PM IST

India, who have an unassailable series lead, take on Australia in the final ODI at Rajkot before the teams go into full Cup preparation mode.

With the ODI series against Australia already won, Wednesday’s third and final game in Rajkot was going to be an opportunity for India’s World Cup squad to assemble and firm up plans before the stakes are ramped up at the marquee event. Not quite!

Indian captain Rohit Sharma during a practice session ahead of the last ODI cricket match between India and Australia(PTI)
Indian captain Rohit Sharma during a practice session ahead of the last ODI cricket match between India and Australia(PTI)

Skipper Rohit Sharma said India will have just 13 players to choose from with Shubman Gill, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur and Axar Patel missing for different reasons. While Gill has been rested after his century in the second match in Indore, Pandya, Shami and Thakur are absent for personal reasons. A few players seem to be battling viral fever too.

Of most concern will be the continued absence of Axar, who is yet to recover from a left quadriceps strain sustained in the Asia Cup. With Thursday being the cut-off for confirming World Cup squads, India’s selectors will have to decide whether to stick with Axar in the hope that he will be available for their opening game against Australia on October 8 or go with off-spinner R Ashwin.

While India’s Asia Cup triumph was a case of all facets of their game clicking, the ODI series against Australia hasn’t proven to be the dress rehearsal one expected. Sharma, back for the third ODI after being rested for the first two games, is pleased with the build-up nonetheless.

“I’m very happy with the last 10 ODIs we have played. A lot of guys came back into form, scoring lots of runs, and the bowlers have taken a lot of wickets. In the last few games, we’ve seen guys come back from injury as well and they’ve proven their fitness. So, we are pretty much settled at this point with how we stand,” Sharma told reporters in Rajkot on Tuesday.

To Ashwin's credit, he has done everything in his control in India’s last two games to make a case for inclusion. In the second ODI in Indore on Sunday, he was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3/41 in seven overs, dislodging Marnus Labuschagne, David Warner and Josh Inglis in a spell that was a glowing embodiment of all his attributes. He was impressive in the first ODI in Mohali too.

On Wednesday, Ashwin will be in the spotlight again. Another notable display will certainly make it that much harder for the selectors to overlook the ace bowler for the World Cup. While Sharma praised Ashwin’s performances so far, he didn’t commit on the selection question.

“Ashwin has got class. He has got experience of handling pressure. It’s just that he hasn’t played ODIs in the last year or so. In the last couple of games, we saw how well he bowled. He has got a lot of variations up his sleeve,” he said.

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