What’s wrong with Kohli and Ashwin?

Has India played any tricks by not playing Ravichandran Ashwin in the ongoing India vs England Test series so far?

That’s the answer every cricket lover is trying to get as Team India captain Virat Kohli, for the fourth time in a row in the series against England, decided to go without Ravichandran Ashwin, the most successful off-spinner of the current times, at the Oval.

After the injuries to Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma, the team management hardly had to put any mind while choosing the fast bowlers. But the choice between world number two Test bowler Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja needed to be considered. Though left-arm spinner Axar Patel is also a part of the team, he was not in the plans of Virat Kohli & Co.

The decision to go one more time with Jadeja was taken with the intention of strengthening the batting. But in purely cricketing terms, the move was highly unfair as Ashwin has a better Test batting record with four tons to his name than Jadeja, who has just one to show before this name.

On top of this, Ashwin played county cricket before the series and there is no comparison with Jadeja when one looks at their respective bowling records. As the entire Team India players enjoyed an extended holiday in the United Kingdom after the World Test Championship (WTC) final loss, Ashwin was busy finding and honing the right rhythm for the five-Test series against the hosts.

Not to be forgotten that he was the best Indian bowler in the WTC final at some distance, on a surface where pacers were supposed to work but failed. Ashwin picked up a couple of wickets each in both the innings and made some contribution with the bat. In contrast, Jadeja hardly showed anything with bat or ball in the WTC finals.

Undoubtedly, Jadeja has improved a lot in batting and is considered a more dependable batsman than Ashwin. But accommodating him mainly at the cost of one wicket-taker Ashwin can never be justified. The 34-year-old Ashwin had earlier taken 12 wickets with an unbeaten 39 in Sydney at an average of 28.83 in the Test series win over Australia.

not his master’s voice

The big question, then, is, “Why has Ashwin failed to show favor with the current team management of captain Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri?”

For someone who has taken 413 wickets in 79 Tests at an average of less than 25, what does his captain expect his captain to do to make him into the playing XI?

To find the answer, one has to go back to 2019 when Ashwin revealed in an interview in West Indies that “either I take a fiffer or I get dropped.” It was Ashwin’s reply to head coach Ravi Shastri, who introduced Kuldeep Yadav as India’s first-choice spinner overseas. At that time, Kuldeep had played six Tests and took 24 wickets for Ashwin’s 350 in 65 Tests.

The year 2021 may be different, but the circumstances are almost the same as they were then. Now the question is, is Ashwin paying the price for speaking his mind in team meetings? The answer is big yes. Ashwin is known for his outspokenness. Earlier, Ashwin had never hidden the fact that he would like to captain the Indian team one day. Similarly, the Tamil Nadu star is known to speak his mind at team meetings, where most of his other colleagues “just nod their heads even if they don’t agree.”

The logic here is that even in conditions like England, where the ball swings more than anywhere else in the world, there is still room for India to play Ashwin with Jadeja and three fast bowlers. But then Kohli went to the WTC final with this exact combination and lost that plot against New Zealand.

Team India management should understand that putting pressure on the home team by playing four fast bowlers can benefit them, but by not playing their best spinner, this advantage is neutralized. It happened in Leeds, where England’s part-time off-spinner Moeen Ali continues to trouble the Indian batsmen.

In the last two years prior to this series, Jadeja has taken 29 wickets in 13 Tests at a strike rate of 69, while Ashwin has taken 71 wickets in 14 Tests with a better strike rate of around 46 during the same period. There is no doubt that Jadeja has improved as a batsman in recent years, but as a bowler, Jadeja has faded at the same time.

Ashwin has always shown by bowling at different tracks that being a world-class spinner is better than a fourth-choice seamer who otherwise would not have found a place in the team structure. Here at The Oval too, Umesh Yadav has been raised with eyebrows due to his inconsistent line in recent years. Yadav has proved to be an expensive option for India when he has been preferred over others. And when England are playing with three specialist left-handed batsmen like Rory Burns, David Malan and Moeen Ali, Ashwin’s record of dismissing left-handers more than 200 times should have played in his favour.

Circumstances in which Kohli is battling his slump in Test cricket and hasn’t scored a single century in the last 22 months or 70 innings, his captaincy will come under scrutiny. Team India’s best result ever since becoming captain in 2015 came in Australia, where skipper Ajinkya Rahane turned the tide in India’s favour, followed by a humiliating 36 all outs and a loss to Kohli in the first game. after.

Who knows, a change in leadership could end Kohli’s struggle with the bat as well.

(The writer is a sports journalist)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.


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