The recent announcement of India’s squad for the upcoming three-match ODI series against Australia has drawn attention to the inclusion of experienced spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. This selection comes in the wake of India’s Asia Cup victory and concerns over the fitness of Axar Patel, who has been ruled out of the first two games. As India prepares for the ODI World Cup on home soil, the return of Ashwin raises questions about his role and the team’s spin bowling options.
Ravichandran Ashwin’s inclusion in the ODI squad has sparked discussions about his inactivity in the format. His last appearance in the ODI playing XI was in January 2022 during the South Africa tour. Despite playing two ODIs in that series, it didn’t lead to a sustained recall. In fact, these two appearances were his only ones in the format since the West Indies tour in 2017.
Indian captain Rohit Sharma addressed Ashwin’s return, highlighting the significance of experience in a player like Ashwin. Rohit stated that a cricketer with nearly 100 Test appearances and 115 ODIs doesn’t necessarily need to play consistently in a particular format to remain relevant. He expressed confidence in Ashwin’s experience and welcomed the opportunity to assess his form and fitness during the Australia series, especially considering Axar Patel’s injury.
“With the kind of experience Ashwin has, has played close to 100 Tests, 115 ODIs…yes it is all in the past but he has been consistently playing Test cricket. With guys like Ashwin, game-time and time on the ground is not so much of a concern. Which is why we thought if he is an option for us, we need to get him in. With the kind of experience he has, for guys like him, it’s all in the head more than the body. I thought getting him in could give us a chance to understand where he is at, how his body is and stuff like that,” he said.
Rohit Sharma emphasized that Ashwin’s inclusion allows the team to explore its spin bowling options, particularly in case Axar Patel remains unavailable for the World Cup. He mentioned that Ashwin had been actively playing cricket, including Test matches and T20 leagues, which means he has had some match practice.
Rohit mentioned, “It’s not like he has not been playing cricket for the last year or so. Yes, he hasn’t played in this [ODI] format, but he played Test cricket recently in the West Indies, and if I’m not wrong, in the TNPL as well. Of course, there’s no comparison but he has had some cricket there. The games against Australia will give us a chance to look at where he’s at.”
The injury to Axar Patel, incurred during the Asia Cup, led to the call-up of Washington Sundar. While Sundar didn’t have a significant role in the Asia Cup final, he was retained for the Australia series. BCCI chief selector Ajit Agarkar noted that Axar’s fitness for the third ODI is hopeful, but the inclusion of Sundar and Ashwin in the squad provides options for the team management.
Agarkar stated, “What we have been told about Axar’s injury is that he should be okay. But at least it leaves us with two options now. If these guys get a couple of games now then it gives the team management options provided they need to go that way. We’re hoping Axar will be fit. Washy was already part of the squad for the final. Ashwin brings experience, so it gives us options in case there is a need at some stage for us to look at those guys,” he said.