Indian cricket fraternity have been left divided over captain Rohit Sharma and BCCI chief selector Ajit Agarkar to bring back Ravichandran Ashwin in the scheme of things for the ODI World Cup. Despite not being part of the format for 20 months, Ashwin has been picked for the impending three-match home series against Australia and could likely make the squad for the World Cup as well if Axar Patel, whom he replaced, is unable to recover in time for the tournament. While few were left surprised at the act given only a handful of spin-bowling all-rounder options, and few other welcomed the move as well, most were left rather baffled, which included India legend Irfan Pathan while Mohammad Kaif delivered a blistering verdict on it.
Ashwin last played an ODI match for India in January 2022 in the tour of South Africa, which remains his only appearance in the format in the last six years. However, with Axar incurring a tear in his quadriceps during the Asia Cup tournament, India called up Ashwin, along with Washington Sundar to give team management an option for the World Cup if things go south for the Gujarat all-rounder.
Speaking to Star Sports on their YouTube channel, Kaif admitted that Ashwin would have never been in the scene had Axar not been injured, however, he backed the veteran spinner ahead of Sundar for the Australia series as he cited his wickets tally across formats in international cricket.
“If Axar hadn’t been injured then we wouldn’t have seen this move and Ashwin would have never been in the scene. Now Axar has suffered a strain injury and that takes time to recover from. No matter what they say that he will be back in a week’s time but such injuries take at least 2-3 weeks to recover from. That is why they went for the experience in Ashwin. And remember, there is no comparison between Ashwin and Sundar. He has 900 wickets (712) across formats!” he said.
– “There is no planning” –
Irfan, who was part of the same panel, however questioned the logic behind bringing back a player who has not been part of a format for almost 2 years. While he accepted Ashwin’s credentials and his ability in the sport, the former India all-rounder felt that Rohit and head coach Rahul Dravid should have at least given a few matches before the Australia series. He felt that the it would be too much for the management to expect that Ashwin would cast his magic in the format in a single series and then turn out to be a key player for India in the World Cup.
“You get a better spinner than Ashwin in the entire world. But in a tournament as big as the World Cup, where there is immense pressure, you can’t expect a senior player to walk in and play for the team in a format which he hasn’t played for a long time and prove his worth. So you are leaving it entirely to fate. There is no planning here. Had there been a plan for Ashwin, they sould have given him some game time before the World Cup. Yes he will be playing against Australia, but is that enough? You have to bowl for 10 overs, and adjust in the team as well and give India that result. It isn’t that easy. Planning should have been better,” he said.
The Australia series will begin from September 22 onwards and all eyes will likely be on Ashwin.