'Only reason why Ashwin was not in ODI team is because of his fielding...': Senior India player's striking remark
Axar Patel's injury during the Asia Cup led the Indian management to bring Ashwin back into the ODI squad for the first time since January 2022.
There have been more talks about Ravichandran Ashwin's surprise selection in ODI cricket, and possible entry into the World Cup squad as well, than about the series India are set to play against Australia, which will be their final assignment before the quadrennial tournament at home. Spin all-rounder Axar Patel's injury during the Asia Cup tournament led the team management to call up Ashwin for the first time since December of 2021 when he was picked for the tour of South Africa. Ashwin's two appearances in the series in January 2022 remain his only in the format in the last six years. As the cricket world remains divided over India's move, a senior India cricketer explained what could have possibly been the reason behind the management keeping Ashwin away from ODIs, until now.
India have only a handful of spin-bowling all-rounder options and Ashwin stands among the top in the world, albeit only in Tests. His prowess in limited-overs cricket remains underrated amid a lack of opportunities in recent times. Yet, he has been India's eleventh-hour player each time India faces a crisis ahead of the World Cup. It happened in the last two World T20s and now ahead of the ODI World Cup with captain Rohit Sharma admitting that all he banks on Ashwin is to bring his experience to the format as India look to test his abilities in the Australia series, which begins from Friday onwards in Mohali, in absence of an injured Axar.
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Amit Mishra, an expert with broadcasters JioCinema & Sports18, in a select virtual media interaction, on Wednesday hailed Ashwin as a "quality bowler and a wicket-taker", but served as a hard-hitting reminder of the duties of a player in an ODI game, explaining that besides the 10 overs of bowling, the player also needs to field for 40 overs and bat if need be. Mishra added that while there have never been a doubt about Ashwin's bowling abilities, he opined that the only reason why he has been inactive in the format has been due to his fielding, besides his right-handed batting ability as opposed to Axar and Ravindra Jadeja, who are both lefties.
"Ashwin is undoubtedly a quality bowler and a wicket-taker, but remember this is not a 20-over game. It is of 50 overs. You have to bowl for 10 overs and field for 40 overs and might have to bat as well. No doubt he has been around for so long, has been a wicket-taker as well, but there is that matter of fielding as well and that is why a young player might be picked. The only reason he has been picked is because if a spinner gets injured, then the team needs to have a wicket-taking option, which Ashwin brings. Ashwin has got an edge as an off-spin option, as India already has two left-arm spinners and a wrist-spinner in Kuldeep Yadav," he said.
"Indian team will be looking at how Ashwin will be bowling against Australia, and to assess if he still has the wicket-taking abilities in this format. The only reason why he is not in the team is because of his fielding and right-handed batting ability. Jadeja and Axar are both lefties. Washington is a young player and has shown wicket-taking abilities apart from being a batting option. Plus, he provides an advantage with his fielding, something which holds importance in ODIs," he added.
Ashwin vs Sundar for Australia series
Besides Ashwin, India have also retained Sundar in the line-up after the star all-rounder was picked as a replacement for Axar in the final. While he played no part in the summit clash against Sri Lanka despite being in the XI, he watched the Indian team end their five-year trophyless run in multi-nation events.
Both the players will be fighting to accompany Jadeja in the XI for the first two matches before Axar returns for the third tie. And Mishra feels that it will be down to the conditions to decide between Ashwin and Sundar.
"It will depend on the wicket. If the wicket is dry, Ashwin will be picked or else Sundar, who gives the edge with his fielding abilities as well," he said.
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