Ahead of finalising the Indian XV for the World Cup, the national selectors face a dilemma over the inclusion of Ravichandran Ashwin.
Ashwin stamped his class with a three-wicket haul against Australia in Indore on Sunday, putting himself in the reckoning for the World Cup.
Axar Patel, who is undergoing rehab at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore following a left quadriceps strain in Sri Lanka during the Asia Cup, is yet to regain fitness for the third ODI on Wednesday. But he could still be available for India’s opening match, against Australia in Chennai on October 8.
Sources told The Telegraph that the think-tank is considering including an off-spinner in Ashwin since it would be more beneficial than having two left-arm bowlers with similar style — Axar and Ravindra Jadeja.
Given the low and slow nature of the wickets in India, it wouldn’t be surprising if three spinners are fielded in the XI along with two pacers. All-rounder Hardik Pandya will help the Bumrahs and Shamis and an extra pacer could be a luxury in the circumstances.
Ashwin provides more depth and variety to the attack along with Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. This combination could be lethal on surfaces that afford spin — Chennai, Pune, Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai.
Axar didn’t threaten with the ball in the Asia Cup, taking only one wicket in two matches at an economy of 5.42. Ashwin in contrast is more aggressive and has shown the potential to provide vital breakthroughs in the middle overs.
Ashwin hasn’t got an opportunity to bat in this ODI series but his batting at nets has been closely monitored by head coach Rahul Dravid. Shortly after the first ODI ended in Mohali, Ashwin batted for an hour with Dravid keeping a close watch.
Will Axar be dropped even if he regains fitness? There is a possibility that Shardul Thakur may get the boot in such a situation. His bowling has been pedestrian and he hasn’t yet really found the mojo with the bat too.
Ashwin is expected to make the grade because of the confidence he enjoys among certain members of the team management. But it will finally come down to choosing two players from Ashwin, Axar and Shardul for the showpiece event.
The selectors will have to take a call by Thursday, a day after the third and final ODI against Australia in Rajkot.