Ashwin’s second wind and the mildly shocking ouster of Yuzvendra Chahal

Ravichandran Ashwin was well and truly out of the shorter-format reckoning for the last four years, but India seem to have betted on his experience and red-ball form as the off-spinner punched a ticket for the flight to the UAE. Making way for him was leggie Yuzvendra Chahal, India’s highest wicket-taker in the slam-bang version of the game.

A couple of factors might’ve coerced the selectors into handing Ashwin a second shot. While Chahal hasn’t been at his lethal best in recent times, Washington Sundar’s finger injury ruled him out of the second half of IPL 2021. Ashwin proved that the fire was burning in his belly in the previous edition of the league, picking up 13 wickets in 15 games at an economy of 7.66 and leading Delhi Capitals’ juggernaut to their first-ever final.

Meanwhile, Chahal would feel a bit hard done by given his expertise in the T20 domain. The stars didn’t align for him both because of his marginal dip in form post 2019 and the meteoric rise of Rahul Chahar, who outclassed the reuniting Kul-Cha duel on the Sri Lanka tour as he spun his way to seven wickets in three games across formats. Alike Chahal, Rahul is willing to trade off a few runs for vital wickets as uniform strikes bring with them dots and stymie the opposition’s progress anyway. He has proven to be a quick learner and is putting the wealth of experience gleaned from the Mumbai Indians stint to good use.

Life has come full circle for linchpins Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin. Having been separated after the advent of the limited-over specialists, the old friends will be partners-in-crime again at the marquee event. With pitches in the UAE resembling their subcontinental counterparts, India would be banking on the vim and vigour of the spin twins to usher them to their second T20 World Cup win after what has been a decade-long yearning.