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India vs England: Team management ties itself in knots over Ashwin fitness

In what seemed more an effort to conceal the decision to play Ashwin in the fourth Test despite not being fit, skipper Virat Kohli, coach Ravi Shastri and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane all tried to give the impression that there was nothing wrong with the spinner.

cricket Updated: Sep 07, 2018 19:59 IST
India vs England,England vs India,R Ashwin
File image of R Ashwin (L) celebrating the fall of a wicket with India skipper Virat Kohli.(AFP)

Fitness issues are part and parcel of modern professional sport, but it is only the Indian cricket team management that treats player injuries as a secret while the truth is there in plain sight.

On this tour, it was surrounded the fitness of R Ashwin, who is nursing a groin injury and was left out of the side for the final Test against England that started at the Oval on Friday.

It didn’t come as a surprise when left-arm Ravindra Jadeja was named in the eleven. Ashwin had not batted or bowled in the nets in the build-up to the game, only jogging along the boundary in short stretches while Jadeja worked on his game.

In what seemed more an effort to conceal the decision to play Ashwin in the fourth Test despite not being fit, skipper Virat Kohli, coach Ravi Shastri and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane all tried to give the impression that there was nothing wrong with the spinner.

Also Read: Hanuma Vihari handed Test cap by Virat Kohli ahead of Oval Test

Rather can giving an accurate assessment, there seemed to be anxiety that revealing his actual condition would raise questions why Ashwin was played ahead of Jadeja in the Southampton Test despite the groin injury that flared up during the third Test at Trent Bridge.

Although Kohli declared Ashwin was fit to play, the groin problem prevented him from pivoting at the bowling crease. Despite the lack of sting, he was given 37.1 overs in the England second innings, taking one wicket.

Former India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh had pointed out that Ashwin was not using his body, crucial for a spinner to get the ball to do extra. Kohli repeated his line even after the defeated at Southampton when comparisons with Moeen Ali, who took nine wickets, was being made.

“He tried his best. He bowled a lot of overs. He pitched the ball in the right areas. He didn’t get the results he would have intended but we all go out there to give our best effort. No one wants to not do well. We all try to do well. Some innings it doesn’t come off.

“On flat wickets batsmen can get out. So this was one occasion where Ashwin could himself feel he could have got more purchase out of the wicket.”

Also Read: Harbhajan takes a dig at Ashwin, says spinner’s failure reason behind India’s loss

Two days before the Oval Test, Shastri was asked why Ashwin was below par. “I think it’s straightforward, very simple, very obvious. It was there for everyone to see. Moeen hit those patches (rough) more than Ashwin, as simple as that.”

Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane was even more hesitant on Thursday though Ashwin played little part in the nets. “Patrick (Farhart, the team physio) will be a better judge to answer that. But he played the last Test in Southampton and bowled really well, and he fielded really well. So, I don’t think there’s an issue with his fitness.”

First Published: Sep 07, 2018 19:47 IST