MUMBAI: The axing of ace off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, normally India’s No 1 spinner, for the first Test in Antigua against the West Indies has triggered a debate, with batting great Sunil Gavaskar terming the decision as “baffling.”
During India’s last tour of the West Indies in 2016, Ashwin had picked 17 wickets and scored 350 runs, including a century, in three Tests, winning the ‘Man of the Series’ award to help India beat West Indies 2-0. In fact, all four of Ashwin’s hundreds have come against the West Indies.
Over the years, skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri’s role has come under the scanner on the issue of chopping and changing the side too frequently. “While interviewing Shastri, we had grilled him as to why the same XI has not been repeated in any of the last 38 Tests that India has played in,” a Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) member had told TOI recently.
India vs West Indies: Ashwin’s omission astonishing, says GavaskarAshwin’s omission led to a scathing remark from former captain Sunil Gavaskar who is part of the TV commentary team for the series. “A man with that kind of record, especially against West Indies… He doesn’t find a place in this playing XI. That is stunning, astonishing,” Cricnfo reported Gavaskar as saying during commentary.
On the sidelines of My11Circle fantasy game event in the city on Friday, former India skipper Sourav Ganguly felt that Kohli needed to give “consistent opportunities” to his players for them to excel.
“This is one area where Virat needs to just be a bit more consistent – pick players and give them a bit more opportunities – for them to get that confidence and rhythm. I have said that before. You saw how Shreyas Iyer played in the ODI series (against West Indies). You picked him and you gave him the freedom to play those matches. I think that needs to happen with a lot of players and I am sure Virat will do that,” Ganguly said.
Ganguly said that he was stumped by not just Ashwin and Rohit’s axing, but Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav’s exclusion from the XI too. “Yes, I was also surprised to see Kuldeep left out, because the last Test he played against Australia, he got five wickets in Sydney on a good flat pitch. But Jadeja also has been in good form. The surface yesterday at Antigua needed three fast bowlers because we saw the seam movement the fast bowlers got. Ashwin’s record is phenomenal. We will find out in the next couple of days whether how far Jadeja goes on to pick wickets on this surface. Because this pitch will get up and down as the game progresses. You can see that sort of indication from the first day of the Test. We will have to wait to see but I would also say that’s the competition (level) of Indian cricket,” Ganguly felt.
A major trend in recent times has been the lack of foreigners in India’s coaching staff. On Friday, R Sridhar pipped South African fielding great Jonty Rhodes to continue as India’s fielding coach. Batting for Indian coaches, Ganguly said: “They wanted continuity with Sridhar, who I think has done a good job. The Indian fielding has been very good. You saw that in the World Cup with Ravindra Jadeja leading the pack. I am a big supporter of the Indian coaches because (their) communication (with the players) is good. They understand the mindset. I am not saying that overseas coaches are different, but we needed (them) at one stage during the transition in the 2000s where we needed overseas coaches to guide young players and take a way forward. But I am extremely happy that our own home bred coaches are given priority which is good because they have put in a lot of effort,” he said.
“I am very happy that the likes of Ravi, Anil (Kumble), Sridhar, Vikram (Rathour) and Bharat Arun have got the opportunity to take Indian cricket forward because they got as much ability as anybody else in the world,” he added.