New Delhi: Legendary batter Sunil Gavaskar believes no other top cricketer in India has been subjected to the baffling treatment which has been meted out to ace off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who was excluded from India’s playing eleven in their 209-run defeat to Australia in the World Test Championship (WTC) Final at The Oval.
The dilemma of Ashwin being in the playing eleven or not had been a huge topic of discussion in the run-up to the WTC final, leading to contrasting opinions. His exclusion from the playing eleven, as India lacked control of the ball, invited severe criticism from former cricketers of both nations.
“No other top-class Indian cricketer in the modern era has been treated as bafflingly as Ashwin has been. Tell me if there was a No. 1 ICC-ranked batter in the team, would he have been left out of the playing XI just because in earlier times he had not got runs on a grassy pitch or if he had not scored runs on a dry spin-friendly pitch? Definitely not.”
“This is not being wise after the event, but a pattern that has been seen over the years. But for this ‘hard to understand thinking’ he would have already played more than 100 Test matches.”
“Even if India were to win, it should not blind us to the treatment given to Ashwin and whatever the explanation that is given, the bowling results in the match where India have been asked to chase 444 tells us that dropping him was not the right call to make,” wrote Gavaskar in his column for Mid-Day Monday.
With 474 wickets in 92 matches at a strike-rate of 51.8, including 32 five-wicket per innings hauls, Ashwin, the top-ranked Test bowler, was left out of the marquee clash as India preferred four fast-bowlers, despite the presence of five left-handed batters in Australia’s batting order. Ashwin had also been left out of India’s matches in England in 2021 and 2022, with conditions being cited as the reason.
“India dropped Ravichandran Ashwin, the No.1 ranked bowler in the game, according to the ICC rankings. The Australians had five left-handers in the team and while one leftie – Travis Head – scored a quickfire century in the first innings, another southpaw Alex Carey got a 48 in the first innings and an unbeaten 66 in the second.”
“During that second innings effort, he also put on 93 runs with another left-hander Mitchell Starc at a time when India were looking to dismiss Australia cheaply in the second innings. If Ashwin had been in the team, who knows what could have happened? With the bat too, he could have contributed,” added Gavaskar.
He also went on to express his disappointment over India’s shot selection in the match, especially in the second innings.
“For me, though the shot selection of the skipper Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara was the disappointing aspect of the Indian innings. Why Pujara attempted a ramp shot is hard to understand for that is not a shot he employs regularly.”
“To even try it two deliveries after Rohit was out was also questioning the thinking at the time. Pujara is known for his patience and willingness to take blows, but keep occupying the crease so why on earth did he look to play that shot when runs were not the need but preserving wickets was essential.”
“Pressure can get a player to do strange things and that’s why Test cricket is the highest form of the game and the World Test Championship final, the ultimate Test match,” he concluded.