Mon. Jun 24th, 2024

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Ravichandran Ashwin is set to play his third 50-overs World Cup after the veteran spinner was added in India’s 15-member squad as a replacement for the injured Axar Patel. This last-minute change was implemented by India hours before the deadline of September 28 (today) was to elapse. Ashwin, 36, was drafted in India’s ODI squad for the three-match series against Australia, and picked four wickets from two games including 3/41 in Indore, was a shoe-in for Axar, who is yet to recover from a left quadriceps strain and is understood to require another three weeks to attain full fitness.

Ravichandran Ashwin is set to represent India in his third World Cup.(PTI)
Ravichandran Ashwin is set to represent India in his third World Cup.(PTI)

The development was certain when Ashwin landed with the Indian team in Guwahati to train ahead of their World Cup warm-up game against England on Saturday, and Axar didn’t. It was soon confirmed by ICC through an official post. “Axar Patel has failed to recover in time for the World Cup after sustaining a left quadriceps strain during India’s Asia Cup Super Four encounter against Bangladesh. The spin-bowling all-rounder missed the final of the Asia Cup as a result,” the ICC said in an official release.

“Veteran spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been named his replacement, who was impressive on his return to ODI cricket in the recently concluded series against Australia where he picked up four wickets in two games.”

To be fair, it was only a matter of time before Ashwin was slotted in India’s World Cup scheme of things. The first real hint about Ashwin’s possible inclusion arrived when he was seen dashing for a late-night batting practice after India’s five-wicket win in the series opener Despite having played his last ODI in January of last year, before the Australia series, Ashwin’s experience over Washington Sundar’s all-rounder capabilities, is something India felt they could rely on. Washington will now head to China to participate at the Asian Games.

India’s World Cup campaign begins against Australia in Chennai – where the pitches have been slow and assisted spin – on October 8, and Ashwin, who has played quite a few matches at the venue for India and Chennai Super Kings, will to be a more than handy for captain Rohit Sharma. Being the only specialist off-spinner in the side, Ashwin brings the experience of 155 wickets from 115 ODIs.

While Ashwin appeared slightly undercooked in the first ODI at Mohali, finishing with 1/47, he dispelled any such doubts when handed the ball in Indore. He foxed David Warner, batting right-handed, and then castled Marnus Labuschagne with a mix of carrom ball-cum-flipper. He was dropped for the third and final ODI, paving the way for Sundar, and although Washington leaked the least runs among all his teammates, Ashwin, as it turns out, had already done his bit to secure a berth in the World Cup 15.

Ashwin’s journey from ODI exit to making a glorious return

This means that Ashwin, along with Virat Kohli is the only player from India’s victorious 2011 World Cup campaign, to feature in cricket’s grandest spectacle in 12 years. Ashwin was part of the 2015 World Cup in Australia/New Zealand, where he grabbed 13 wickets from eight matches in India’s run to the semifinal, and remained an integral part of India’s white-ball setup till the 2017 Champions Trophy.

However, following the ICC tournament, the leadership duo of Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri recognized the necessity for more effective wicket-taking options during the middle overs, leading them to turn to the wrist-spinning pair of Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal, thus shutting the doors on Ashwin – he did not play the 2019 World Cup either. However, with Yuzi’s effectiveness dipping, Ashwin has been recalled, loading one final throw of the dice.

But over the last month or so, with chief selector Ajit Agarkar and captain Rohit constantly addressing questions around Ashwin, his return was impending. When India’s squad for Asian Cup was announced in August, Agarkar had mentioned that although Ashwin was one of the contenders, the team went ahead with Axar given the batting depth he provides. Later, when Axar got injured ahead of the final, Sundar was flown in although his participation in the match was only restricted to fielding as India trounced Sri Lanka.

Rohit has since always spoken highly of Ashwin, and even said at the end of the Asia Cup that he has been in touch with the off-spinner over the phone. Even coach Rahul Dravid, during yesterday’s post-match press conference, indicated that no changes were anticipated in India’s World Cup squad, but with Agarkar getting regular updates on Axar from the NCA, his fitness wasn’t deemed good enough.

India’s updated and final World Cup squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Hardik Pandya (Vice-captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav.

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