The cynosure of India’s squad announcement for the final assignment before the ODI World Cup tournament at home has been the inclusion of Ravichandran Ashwin.
Fresh from the Asia Cup title haul, and less than three weeks before the start of the quadrennial tournament, India are slated to face Australia in a three-match ODI series at home between September 22 and 27 in Mohali, Indore and Rajkot respectively. And with India fretting over the injury of Axar Patel, who has been ruled out of the first two games, Ashwin has been included.
While it was more likely an expected choice given a handful of spin-bowling all-rounder options, questions were raised on Ashwin’s inactivity in the ODI format. The last time he was part of the ODI playing XI was in January 2022 in the tour of South Africa. He played two ODIs in that series, both at Paarl, and while it at hinted at him being part of the scheme of things for the ODI World Cup, he was never recalled again. In fact, the two ODI appearances were his only in the format since the tour of West Indies in 2017.
However, Rohit, who had earlier on Sunday, post India’s Asia Cup win revealed that he has been constantly in touch with Ashwin, explained that a bowler, with close to 100 Test appearances and 115 in ODIs, doesn’t need to be consistently playing a format to remain relevant. Unfazed over the lack of game-time, Rohit admitted that he is banking in Ashwin’s experience to come of use and is eager to try him out in the Australia series to know of India’s options in case Axar becomes unavailable for the World Cup.
“With the kind of experience Ashwin has, has played close to 100 Tests, 115 ODIs…yes it is all in the past but he has been consistently playing Test cricket. With guys like Ashwin, game-time and time on the ground is not so much of a concern. Which is why we thought if he is an option for us, we need to get him in. With the kind of experience he has, for guys like him, it’s all in the head more than the body. I thought getting him in could give us a chance to understand where he is at, how his body is and stuff like that,” he said.
“It’s not like he has not been playing cricket for the last year or so. Yes, he hasn’t played in this [ODI] format, but he played Test cricket recently in the West Indies, and if I’m not wrong, in the TNPL as well. Of course, there’s no comparison but he has had some cricket there. The games against Australia will give us a chance to look at where he’s at.”
When Axar was down with an injury he incurred in the Super Four game of Asia Cup against Bangladesh on Friday, Washington Sundar was called up. The latter did not bowl or bat in the final despite being part of the XI, but India retained him for the Australia series.
BCCI chief selector Ajit Agarkar, in response to a query on Axar’s injury, explained that while the management remain hopeful of the all-rounder recovering for the third ODI, for which his selection is subject to fitness, they will have options in Sundar and Ashwin to choose from after having tested them in the series against Australia.
“What we have been told about Axar’s injury is that he should be okay. But at least it leaves us with two options now. If these guys get a couple of games now then it gives the team management options provided they need to go that way. We’re hoping Axar will be fit. Washy was already part of the squad for the final. Ashwin brings experience, so it gives us options in case there is a need at some stage for us to look at those guys,” he said.