Ravichandran Ashwin’s 20-month ODI exile ended on Monday after the off-spinner was recalled for a place in India’s squad for the first two ODIs against Australia starting Friday. Ajit Agarkar, the BCCI chairman of selectors, while unveiling the squad, informed that Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya have been rested for the Mohali and Indore matches, paving the way for KL Rahul’s return as captain. The star trio will, however, be back for the final game, and the squad for this match remains unchanged from India’s 15-member World Cup line-up, along with the additions of Ashwin and Washington Sundar.
Ashwin replaces the injured Axar Patel, while his filler in the Asia Cup final, Sundar, has retained his place in both squads. Ashwin earns his first ODI call-up since December of 2021. As per a report carried by Mid-Day, Ashwin was reached out to by the team management when Axar strained his left quadriceps, but the spinner declined the offer as he was in no shape to get ready on such short notice. The BCCI, thus, turned to Sundar, who was part of India’s Asian Games training camp in Bengaluru. He took the first flight to Colombo, landed the day before the final, didn’t bat nor bowled but celebrated India’s Asia Cup triumph.
However, Ashwin’s recall in the Indian ODI set-up could to be a stop-gap arrangement as Axar’s impending recovery is likely to put him right back in the mix of things. Having said that, don’t rule out the possibility of a last-minute change, for India have till September 27, to make tweaks if needed. Agarkar pointed out that Axar’s inclusion in the third ODI is subject to fitness and if for some reason, his recovery doesn’t come along as expected, Ashwin could well be donning the India colours in a 50-over World Cup for the first time since 2015.
Ashwin, a veteran of 100 ODIs with 150 wickets, but with a World Cup record of 17 wickets from 10 matches at an average of 34, last played an ODI in January of 2022 against South Africa in Paarl before being shown the door. He returned to India’s T20I set-up for a good four months, playing the T20 World Cup. A permanent fixture of India’s Test unit, Ashwin continued to play red-ball games against Bangladesh last December and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia in March earlier this year. He was controversially dropped from India’s World Test Championship final in June before returning to spin the West Indies out with figures of 5/60 and 7/71 in Dominica.
India’s Asian Games captain, Ruturaj Gaikwad, too has earned a spot in the squad for the first two matches, although the 26-year-old will return to China for the Asiad, where the Indian team kicks off its campaign on September 27. The selectors have also shown confidence in young batsman Tilak Varma and fast bowler Prasidh Krishna, both of whom were part of India’s Asia Cup squad in Sri Lanka but only had one appearance – in the game against Bangladesh. The Mohali ODI will be Rahul’s first match as India captain since the series against Zimbabwe in August last year. IHe was supposed to lead India in the three T20Is against the Proteas at home before a groin injury sustained on the eve of the series opener ruled him out and Rishabh Pant was handed over the captaincy duties.
For the third ODI in Rajkot, India are expected to go in a fully-strengthened Playing XI as it would be the final official game before they open their World Cup campaign against Australia in Chennai on October 8. Additionally, India will play a couple of warm-up matches – against England and the Netherlands on September 30 and October 3 respectively.
India squad for first two ODIs: 1 KL Rahul (Captain), 2 Ravindra Jadeja (Vice-captain), 3 Shubman Gill, 4 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 Ishan Kishan, 7 Suryakumar Yadav, 8 Shardul Thakur, 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Mohammed Shami, 12 Tilak Varma, 13 Prasidh Krishna, 14 Ravichandran Ashwin, 15 Washington Sundar
For third ODI: 1 Rohit Sharma (Captain), 2 Hardik Pandya (Vice-captain), 3 Shubman Gill, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 KL Rahul, 7 Ishan Kishan, 8 Suryakumar Yadav, 9 Ravindra Jadeja, 10 Shardul Thakur, 11 Jasprit Bumrah, 12 Mohammed Siraj, 13 Mohammed Shami, 14 Kuldeep Yadav, 15 Axar Patel (subject to fitness), 16 R Ashwin, 17 Washington Sundar