A former India chief selector has urged a recall for Ravichandran Ashwin in both shorter formats after the home spinners were savaged by England’s “fearless” approach in the ODI series.
In the first two matches in Pune, the spinners, Kuldeep Yadav and Krunal Pandya, took only one wicket between them while conceding 283 runs from 35 overs. Virat Kohli has already ruled out Ashwin returning to the T20I side.
However, Dilip Vengsarkar, who was also a key member of the Indian top order in the 1970s and early 1980s, said that Ashwin’s variety would be key to taking wickets and slowing the batsmen’s progress in the middle overs.
Ashwin was in exceptional form in the Test series taking 32 wickets at an average of just over 14. He last played limited-overs cricket for his country on the 2017 tour of the West Indies and has 150 wickets at an economy rate of 4.91 in the 50-over game and 52 wickets at an economy rate of just under seven an over in T20Is.
“If I were the chief selector (now), I would have brought Ashwin back [to the white ball set-up],” said Vengsarkar, who played 129 ODIs. “Why not? Because he is such an experienced bowler, and he has variety. As they say, spinners mature late, and he has done so well over the years. He is in terrific form in red-ball cricket. I think it will suit the team if he is brought back.”
Vengsarkar also said he rated Ashwin as a much better bowler than Washington Sundar, the young all-rounder who Kohli prefers in the T20 format and about who he has said is India’s first choice “unless he has a drastically horrible season”.
The Indian captain also told the media after the first T20: “Washington has been doing really well for us. You can’t have two players of the same discipline [off spin] playing in the same squad.”
However, Vengsarkar countered: “Washington Sundar is no match if you compare him with Ashwin, purely as a bowler. Where is the comparison? Players of ‘the same discipline’ have featured in the Indian squad before. The Ravindra Jadeja-Axar Patel combo is a case in point. So why not Washington and Ashwin?
“In the ODIs, when the spinners bowl, their job is to get wickets in the middle overs. If they fail to get wickets, then the opposition can score a huge total, with wickets in hand. So basically, Ashwin’s job will be to get wickets, and he is good at that.
“With the variety he has, he would be a very good attacking option, and very few can match his variety. As far as spinners are concerned, you don’t contain the batsmen [in these formats], especially in the middle overs.”
Gautum Gambhir, the former Test opener, is another to have questioned Ashwin’s absence from the shorter forms. He told Cricinfo: “It’s actually a shame that he hasn’t played white-ball cricket for the last two [four] years after winning, what, nine man-of-the-series awards [in Test cricket].
For his own part, Ashwin has said he is relaxed about the situation, saying that he found the questions about his return to international limited-overs cricket “laughable”.
“I am totally at peace and extremely happy with the kind of cricket and life I’m leading right now,” he said.
However, a final word suggested that the desire to succeed in all formats still burns brightly enough: “Given an opportunity I will make a game-breaking performance, which I’m almost certain about,” he said.
Guerillacricquiz No 1: international multiple choice, answers
England: Answer a) the back end of a pantomime cow West Indies: b) Gordon Greenidge India: c) 13 Pakistan: d) Javed Miandad Ireland a) Mark Adair Zimbabwe c) Sri Lanka South Africa a) Paarl Australia a) Police detective Bangladesh a) Monimul Haque Afghanistan b) Spin Ghar New Zealand c) Aotearoa Sri Lanka c) Muttiah Muralitharan