Why would you keep out a player who has been influential not only with the ball but also with the bat in the last two big series wins for India, away in Australia and at home against England earlier this year?
Even in England playing for Surrey, he took 6/27 in the second innings against Somerset in the build-up to the first Test. A few weeks before -- against New Zealand in the World Test Championship final at Southampton -- he took four Kiwi wickets on a pitch that was bafflingly partial to the seamers.
Meanwhile Ravindra Jadeja, the only spinner to feature in all four Tests against England, has done reasonably well with the bat but his spin bowling has left a lot to be desired. After going wicketless in the first two Tests, he at last broke the jinx at Leeds with two wickets, though he looked nowhere close to his best.
All things point to just one conclusion that Ashwin doesn’t have captain Virat Kohli’s confidence. It seems Ashwin cannot walk into the Playing XI just like that -- solely on the basis of his performances.
Ashwin had Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s full backing and blossomed into a world-class spinner under his captaincy. However, once Kohli took over the reins, it went downhill pretty fast for him. All began from that fateful Champions Trophy final
against arch-rivals Pakistan on June 18, 2017 which Kohli’s men lost by a massive 180 runs.
Ashwin, following turning in 0/70 in his 10 overs, took the maximum flak and was soon removed from the limited-overs teams without any attempt at pretension from the team management. Oddly enough, he took a match-winning 3/28 against the West Indies on June 30, 2017 and hasn’t since played an ODI for India. A few days later, he featured in the only T20I against the same opposition -- he has since been out of T20I contention too.
Thereafter only Test cricket was left for him to stay relevant. While he remained India’s number one spinner at home, there was no guarantee that he would make it to the playing XI when the team was touring, especially the countries where
pitches were not conducive to spinners. Jadeja’s rise in stature, particularly as a batsman, played a big role in that.
But after India’s win against Australia in Australia in 2020-21 in the absence of Kohli who returned to India on paternity leave after the first Test in which the Indians were bowled out for just 36 runs in the second innings, it appeared things were on the mend between both the players. Ashwin took 12 wickets in the three Tests he played in Australia and not just that at Sydney he scored 39 not out off 128 balls and helped India earn an important draw against hostile bowling.
In the ensuing series at home against England, he claimed a whopping 32 wickets in five Tests besides also scoring a century in Chennai in a crunch situation. Surely, after doing all this Ashwin would expect himself to be a fixture in the team -- at least for a few matches. But no, he was dropped just after the Test against New Zealand in which he had not done a bad job by any means.
What has happened with Ashwin can easily turn a believer into a non-believer. He must play the fourth Test against the Poms and Kohli and Ravi Shastri should do away with their excuse which they peddle out time and time again that a player in this Indian team only misses out because the team management finds their skills out of line with the match conditions. Ashwin is too good to deserve that!
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