Rohit Sharma: The games against Australia will give us a chance to look at where Ashwin is at
Regular players like Captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya, and Kuldeep Yadav have been rested for the first two ODIs as the team looks towards the World Cup and wants to test more of their bench while R Ashwin and Washington Sundar are both in India’s squad for the three-match ODI series against Australia.
R Ashwin and Washington Sundar are both in India’s squad for the three-match ODI series against Australia.
Regular players like Captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya, and Kuldeep Yadav have been rested for the first two ODIs as the team looks towards the World Cup and wants to test more of their bench. In Rohit’s absence, KL Rahul will lead the side.
For the third ODI, the selector has been chosen the same squad that they will compete in the World Cup, plus Ashwin and Washington.
Ashwin hasn’t played in an ODI in more than 18 months, and his selection is a chance for the team management to have him ready, along with Washington, in case they need to replace Axar Patel, who missed the Asia Cup final due to a left quadriceps strain.
Even though the national team was away in Sri Lanka for the last week, Ashwin trained at the NCA with spin consultant Sairaj Bahutule in addition to his regular physical conditioning work.
“We’re hoping Axar will be fit,”chief selector Ajit Agarkar said.
“Washy was already part of the squad for the final. Ashwin brings experience, so it gives us options in case there is a need at some stage for us to look at those guys.”
Rohit went into a little more detail about the Ashwin selection when asked if the off-spinner’s lack of match-time in the format could be a possible obstacle.
“With guys like Ashwin, game-time and time on the ground is not so much of a concern. Which is why we thought if he is an option for us, we need to get him in. With the kind of experience he has, for guys like him, it’s all in the head more than the body. I thought getting him in could give is a chance to understand where he is at, how his body is, and stuff like that.
“It’s not like he has not been playing cricket for the last year or so. Yes, he hasn’t played in this [ODI] format, but he played Test cricket recently in the West Indies, and if I’m not wrong, in the TNPL as well. Of course, there’s no comparison but he has had some cricket there. The games against Australia will give us a chance to look at where he’s at.”
Kuldeep Yadav is riding a wave of confidence following a Player-of-the-Series performance at the Asia Cup. Ahead of the World Cup, the Indian team management is doing everything it can to “preserve” its lone wrist spinner in the squad by resting him for the first two ODIs and not “exposing” him much against Australia.
“Kuldeep is a rhythm bowler, we all know that,”India captain Rohit Sharma said.
“But we thought of a lot of things and took this call. His bowling is going well, like Ajit [Agarkar] said, we had to give players a chance; especially those who played just one game at the Asia Cup and are in the World Cup squad.
“We have been looking at Kuldeep for the last one, one and a half years; this is why we don’t want to expose him a lot. He is coming back for the last match. There are a lot of reasons. This is the best decision for us, to have him sit out for two games and play the third. We also have two practice matches [before the World Cup opener], so for the bowling rhythm, he will be back in it.”
Given the short time between their successful Asia Cup campaign and the first ODI, Agarkar emphasized the significance of giving the senior players a “mental break” in his explanation of the team management’s decision to name two separate squads for a short ODI series.
“Luckily we got a fair amount of cricket at the Asia Cup,”Agarkar said.
“If not, we would’ve looked at it some other way. More than physical, sometimes guys need a mental break, which isn’t a bad thing leading into a tournament like the World Cup.
“For the third game, everyone will be available. We will play our World Cup squad. This [squad for the first two ODIs] gives us a chance to give guys sitting outside a chance. It’s still a strong squad. Like I said, if we hadn’t got a lot of cricket at the Asia Cup, who knows, we may have thought differently.”
With Rohit taking a break, India can choose either Ishan Kishan or Ruturaj Gaikwad as their opener. Gaikwad has been preparing at the NCA, along with the rest of India’s delegation to the Asian Games before they go to China on September 27. Gaikwad, who will lead that team, will now join the rest of the touring group immediately after the second ODI on September 24 in Indore.
The Australia series, which starts on September 22, is India’s final ODI assignment before the World Cup. Tilak Varma, a highly regarded middle-order batsman, has the opportunity to make the strongest possible impression. He has been selected for the first two games.
For first two ODIs: KL Rahul (capt), Ravindra Jadeja (vice-capt), Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Tilak Varma, Prasidh Krishna, R Ashwin, Washington Sundar
For third ODI: Rohit Sharma (capt), Hardik Pandya (vice-capt), Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Virat Kohli, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel (subject to fitness), R Ashwin, Washington Sundar