Former India pacer Zaheer Khan has pointed out that possible reasons for Ravichandran Ashwin’s exclusion from the playing XI could be the playing conditions and the fact that India already has a spinner in their ranks. Ashwin has been watching from the sidelines in all the three Tests against England in this series so far.
On Thursday, a Zaheer engaged in a chat with Cricbuzz where a fan brought up the example of Shane Warne. While Australia toured away from home or in seamer-friendly conditions, Warne was always a part of the squad. But Ashwin hasn’t been favored as such and Zaheer elaborated on the matter.
“Match-winners are match-winners, no doubt. But if you talk about Shane Warne, he was the lone spinner in the XI. Everyone knows what a massive player Warne was. Speaking of a spinner in this Indian team, one spinner [Ravindra Jadeja] is playing already in the XI. But you need to keep the playing conditions in mind and the team balance,” Zaheer said.
So far, the ploy to go in with four seamers and a solitary spinner has worked in India’s favor. Jadeja’s services with the ball have barely been required considering the Indian pacers have picked up most of the wickets so far.
“India gave preference to a pace bowler depending on the conditions” – Zaheer Khan
While there have been plenty of debates going on around Ashwin’s capability on any track regardless of the conditions, Zaheer Khan still believes the team balance might have mattered more. Maybe if India had a pace-bowling all-rounder like Hardik Pandya or Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashwin could have been slotted in as per Zaheer.
“The shortage of a fast-bowling all-rounder… if India had that option available, they might have thought differently. More than thinking about a specific individual [R Ashwin], it was a point about thinking about what the team needed. India gave preference to a pace bowler depending on the conditions currently,” he stated.
A player of Ashwin’s seniority and caliber is hard to be kept out of the playing XI. Although Ashwin is known to be a team player, the decision to drop him is a tough one, and letting the off-spinner know that he won’t be playing is a tougher task. Questioned on how the captain and coach can break the news to someone like Ashwin, Zaheer said:
“The communication needs to be transparent. This is the specialty of a team sport. The aim of the management is always to think about what’s best for the team. So, the communication needs to be clear, and the clearer the communication, the simpler it becomes for both the player and the management.“
Before the end of the tour, Ashwin might get the green light ahead of a pacer in order to relieve the workload rotate the bowlers. For now, India’s focus will be on saving the Headingley Test.