An average of 50.18 & 4 tons & 60 wickets with 4 five-wicket hauls in 11 Tests against West Indies – these stats are enough to give any cricketer a guaranteed place in XI against the same opponents. But not for R Ashwin. The off-spinner, who recently was the 1st-choice spinner for India across formats, has even lost favour in Test XI after losing his place in limited-overs cricket.
India went with R Jadeja in the two-match Test series against West Indies despite Ashwin’s proven performances against the Caribbean. Jadeja’s recent spirited performance across formats has given captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri to invest in the all-rounder.
Despite Ashwin’s better stats against WI than Jadeja’s, what tilted the balance in the southpaw’s favour is his efficient fielding. Ashwin, on the other hand, is considered sloppy on the field and Kohli just hates giving away easy runs on the field.
With the South Africa Test series set to start, will Ashwin make it to the XI? Or, will Jadeja will win the battle again? Has Kohli lost his faith in Ashwin as his front-line Test spinner?
Cricwizz takes a look at a few reasons Kohli has lost his faith in R Ashwin.
R Ashwin: Out of sight, out of mind!
With Ashwin relegated to Test cricket only, the off-spinner has been out of sight for a few months as there was an overdose of limited-overs cricket since Jan. In the interim period, Jadeja has emerged as not only a reliable spinner who can take wickets on any surface but also bat with the lower-order to score a few useful runs. His fielding is an asset all the time. Ashwin has nothing to show in the meantime. He was also not at his best in the IPL, captaining KXIP. Meanwhile, he has played county cricket but does not have great numbers to show.
Off-spin giving way for wrist-spin?
Not so long ago, off-spin was the flavour of the season across formats. But wrist-spinners started blooming and overshadowed the off-spinners. Leg-spinners such as Rashid Khan, Ish Sodhi, Kuldeep Yadav, YS Chahal continued to impress.
India dumped both their orthodox spinners in Ashwin, Jadeja after the 2017 Champions Trophy final loss and invested in wrist-spinners in Chahal and Kuldeep in limited-overs cricket.
‘Kulcha’ became an instant hit as they started hunting in pairs. Soon, Kuldeep made his way into Test cricket and impressed instantly. Kuldeep is considered an X-factor in the Test squad as not many batsmen face chinaman bowlers in nets and hence, they struggle against this type of spin bowling.
Hence, Ashwin not only faces competition from Jadeja but also Kuldeep in Test XI, come the South Africa Test series.
But SA Test series at home can see R Ashwin-Jadeja back
In the spin-friendly conditions of the sub-continent, India may go with two specialist spinners in Jadeja and Ashwin for the South Africa Test series. Hence, Ashwin may heave a sigh of relief. But his performance alone will be the sole criterion for selection in subsequent Tests.
However, Kohli has the knack of pulling up surprises and going against the comfort zone and may bench Ashwin for Kuldeep and Jadeja in XI.
Hence, it’s a tricky situation for Ashwin to not only bag wickets, but run through the South African batting line-up consistently, if he gets to play, to regain his position as India’s No 1 spinner in Test cricket.
West Indies omission a huge dent to R Ashwin’s confidence?
Ashwin’s omission from the West Indies Test series may have dealt a huge blow to his confidence. From the No 1 spinner for India in Tests to warming the bench, it won’t be easy for Ashwin to swallow the bitter pill and come out all guns blazing in the South Africa Test series. Can he regain his No 1 spinner’s spot in Tests if given the chance?
At the moment, it looks Kohli goes on current form than fame. He may bench Ashwin again for Jadeja and Kuldeep. But considering Ashwin’s super success the last time Proteas travelled to India, Kohli would look to bring back the Jadeja-Ashwin pair to hunt together for wickets in the first Test. Ashwin’s further participation in the series will depend on his performance.
The first Test would be a stern test for Ashwin to prove he’s still the top spinner for India in the five-day format.