Two days out from the finale of the 2023 ODI World Cup at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, India held an optional training session. There were some major absentees which included the pace-bowling trio of Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah, along with Kuldeep Yadav, Virat Kohli and Shubman Gill. It was a rather quiet training session. Only a handful had joined head coach Rahul Dravid and his support staff at the venue with the cynosure being their lengthy discussion on the pitch as they stood beside it at the end of the net session which also sparked an unlikely question on the probable XI that India would feature.
Rohit Sharma and the team management have left their playing XI untouched for the last six games, and rightly so. There was indeed a major debate pertaining to the line-up when Hardik Pandya was ruled out due to an injury midway through the tournament. Still, India’s Plan B fell in place perfectly and rather made them an even stronger side with Shami coming off the bench to pick three five-wicket hauls in those six games.
The combination for the final hence should be a no-brainer. Yet, the optional training session on Friday in Ahmedabad left onlookers thinking if, if, India could for a change and bring a trump card for the final in Ravichandran Ashwin, who was among the six players from the squad present at the nets. The others included KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishan Kishan, and Prasidh Krishna.
While the session largely focussed on Rohit’s intense batting session where he faced a local leg-spinner and a left-arm spinner in a bid to gear up for facing Adam Zampa while Ravindra Jadeja had two separate sessions, one which included death-over batting, Ashwin was actively involved in the proceedings as well. He showed every bowling card at his disposal, including sending down some ripping leg-breaks while also having a batting session as Dravid watched keenly, hinting that maybe India could be staring at a solitary change in the line-up.
Ashwin in place of Siraj?
Ashwin, who was a last-minute inclusion in the World Cup squad in place of injured Axar Patel, played only one match in the tournament, against Australia at the start of the campaign on spin-friendly Chennai track. He picked one wicket for 34 runs in 8 overs.
Back in 2011, when India last won the World Cup trophy, then-skipper MS Dhoni had made only change in the final as he brought back S Sreesanth who had only played in the opening game of the team’s campaign. Sreesanth was however recalled for injured Ashish Nehra back then.
On Sunday, Ashwin could replace Mohammed Siraj, who has blown hot and cold in this event. Australia have two left-handed openers in Travis Head and David Warner and moreover, the offie has a good record against Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne.