After spending 20 months in the wilderness, Ravichandran Ashwin has made a comeback into the Indian ODI set-up when he was least expected to. Having played just three ODIs since the Champions Trophy, Ashwin’s ODI career was seemingly over, until Axar Patel picked up a strain in his left quadriceps. With Washington Sundar promising but injury-prone and China-bound for the Asian Games, India turned to their most experienced spinner for the three-ODI series against Australia just before the World Cup. It is unclear whether Ashwin will eventually make it to India’s World Cup squad as the last date to apply the final tweaks to the squad is September 28, but given Ajit Agarkar’s uncertainty surrounding Axar’s fitness and recovery, the stage could be set for Ashwin’s limited-overs swansong.
Weighing in on Ashwin’s comeback after a long gap, Sri Lanka legend Arjuna Ranatunga sure wants to see the off-spinner in the mix for the World Cup. The 1996 World Cup-winning captain explained that Ashwin’s inclusion makes all the sense in the world given India are entering the World Cup with just one specialist spinner in Kuldeep Yadav. The left-arm wrist-spinner may be in red-hot form but Ranatunga believes that Ravindra Jadeja being an all-rounder, will put more pressure on Kuldeep and that if he goes for runs, India would need the wily fox Ashwin to contain the scoring.
“I don’t know whether India has two proper spinners. They have good all-rounders, who happen to be spinners but I can’t see a proper spinner in this side. On Indian pitches, they need a strong group of spinners. If not, it would be a disadvantage for India,” Ranatunga told The Indian Express.
“Of course, there is Kuldeep Yadav, he can be a match-winner as he showed against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup. He is pretty clever from what I see, especially when it comes to using the variations. But you need one more to support him who could contain and attack because teams will try to target him and unsettle. Especially when you play against England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, sometimes you might have to play 3 spinners without affecting the balance of the team. And India doesn’t have a batsman who can bowl. Jadeja who bowls, bats at No 7.”
Why India need Ashwin at World Cup
The Kuldeep that bled runs was from a long time ago. Ever since being recalled into the side under the Rahul Dravid-Rohit Sharma reign, Kuldeep’s career has witnessed a renaissance. With 31 wickets in 16 ODIs, Kuldeep is the second-most successful bowler this year and with figures of 5/25 and 4/43 in back-to-back games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka was named Player of the Series in India’s victorious Asia Cup campaign. However, Ranatunga is of the belief that Ashwin, despite not being a spring chicken, will cover the loopholes India have in their spin department.
“You take Pakistan and England, they have proper spinners. So that is something I’m sure India will address before the World Cup. They are looking more at the all-rounders like Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, but I personally feel that they should have someone like R Ashwin in the squad, if not in the XI. When he plays, he can be a match-winner for you,” added the former Sri Lanka captain.
“He may be slightly older, he might be slightly slow on the field, but you need guys in the sub-continent who can contain and can take wickets. Sides that want to win most of the games, they do so by taking wickets and for that you need to have a balanced all-round attack. If someone like Anil Kumble is in that side then I will tag them as firm favourites, but they have a problem to address with their spinners.