It is fair to say that Ravichandran Ashwin could walk into any Test side in the world except his own, India.
In consecutive Test matches in England, this Indian cricket team has chosen Ravindra Jadeja ahead of Ashwin because of the batting ability the former has shown over the course of the past three years. India, in the current English conditions, apparently views a specialist spinner as a defensive option, a tool to make up seven or eight overs in a day. Is this the right approach in England?
In my opinion, there is no where to go. In England, three seamers are a must. A seam-bowling allrounder made sense at Trent Bridge, and once Ishant Sharma was fit for selection he took back his place for the Lord’s Test, which of course extended India’s weak tail. India’s last four are rarely reliable, which shifts the focus back on the No 7.
Who should it be going forward? Jadeja or Ashwin?
As Ashwin himself revealed on his YouTube channel, days before the second Test he was all prepared to feature in the match since Shardul Thakur was out with a hamstring injury. Cut to day one of the Lord’s Test, and play was delayed due to rain. At the toss, it was announced that the Indian management had decided to go with Ishant rather than Ashwin because of the overcast conditions, again resulting in a longer tail.
Many people have this theory that below No 6, every player should be played only on the basis of their primary skill, any other advantage is just a bonus. I respect that. But the fact is that this time around India’s seaming allrounder is Thakur and not Hardik Pandya, who is a much better batsman and thus could have given the team a bit more confidence with the bat at No 7. And Hardik would have definitely increased the chances of Ashwin being in the XI.
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To summarise, the Indian middle order is not among runs at the moment, so keeping that in mind the management has tried to strengthen the batting a bit more and reward Jadeja for his performances with the bat. Also it is a great sign that the quicks alone are able to take 20 wickets consistently.
Thus it would not be a surprise of India persist with Ishant at Headingley, despite the fact that the last four are not that reliable (in this regards, the ninth-wicket stand of 89* between Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah at Lord’s was a massive surprise). However, getting a fit Shardul back would be the wiser call, in my opinion.
My predicted XI for the Leeds Test: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Shardul Thakur, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Mohammed Siraj