R Ashwin has a very poor record overseas © Getty Images
Ravichandran Ashwin is a unique talent, but has not been able to cement his spot in the Indian Test team away from home. He has not played the last three away Tests for India. With conditions in England not favouring spinners, it is hard to include Ashwin in the Indian team. Shrikant Shankar gives five reasons why Ashwin should not play the first Test against England in Nottingham.
Ravichandran Ashwin’s poor record away from home: Ravichandran Ashwin has played 19 Tests for India so far and has taken 104 wickets. Only nine of those have come away from India. Ashwin has been brilliant in Indian tracks, which suit spin bowlers. In conditions which do not favour spinners, however, Ashwin has struggled. Although he has played only four matches, Ashwin has missed the last three Tests which were away from home. While his career average is 28.50, away from home, it is 74.77. The strike-rate is 140. Clearly, he does not fancy bowling away from home.
Ravindra Jadeja providing better option: Ravindra Jadeja does not have numbers which are exceptional. But he has better numbers than Ashwin. Jadeja has played three of his eight Tests away from home. He has taken nine wickets at an average of 45.66. His strike-rate is 100.8 — still better than Ashwin’s. But Jadeja also is a good batsman and a brilliant fielder. Overall, Jadeja provides a better option. If both spinners are not going to take wickets, then it is better to select the one who has the better record between them.
India must go with three seamers and one spinner: England have only selected two players who can bowl spin in their squad; Moeen Ali and Joe Root. Clearly, the side that knows their own backyard bette don’t feel the need to include a specialist spinner in their entire squad. England will play four seam/swing bowlers in their side. India must take cue from this and go in with three seam/swing bowlers and one spinner, i.e. Jadeja.
Ashwin’s poor fielding: Jadeja is a brilliant fielder, but Ashwin is actually a liability on the field. While he is a fine slip catcher, that alone cannot make him enter the Indian starting XI. The slip cordon is rarely in effect for an entire innings, and Jadeja’s supreme ground fielding stands him in good stead.
Conditions in England do not favour spinners: It is a well-known fact that the conditions in England will always favour seam/swing bowlers. Ashwin’s forte is to get small variations in his finger spin bowling. He does not let the ball rip and only pushes through. This will hardly get him any bounce and definitely won’t get him any spin.
Counter: There has to be a counter to all these arguments as well. Ashwin’s batting record is phenomenal. With almost 800 runs at an average of 39.40 — a higher average than even MS Dhoni — and a strike-rate of 63.14, Ashwin is actually considered a better batsman than bowler in Tests. Ashwin has struck two centuries and three half-centuries in 19 Tests. These are numbers any lower-order batsman should be wishing for for. He can replace either Ajinkya Rahane or Rohit Sharma as a batting all-rounder rather than the other way around.
Catch all stories from India’s tour of England 2014 here
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)