India vs England 2014, 3rd Test at Southampton: Should Ravichandran Ashwin get a look-in?
Ravichandran Ashwin has picked up only nine wickets from four overseas Tests © Getty Images
After India’s tremendous victory in the second Test at Lord’s, the visitors would be eager to have another go at an English side that seems grossly lacking in confidence and direction. While India have a very settled side, Shiamak Unwalla wonders whether Ravichandran Ashwin ought to get a game.
The disparity between Ravichandran Ashwin’s home and away record is staggering. In 19 Tests, he has captured a mind-numbing 104 wickets. What is equally mind-numbing, however, is that of those 104 wickets, only nine have come overseas.
It is hardly surprising, then, that Ashwin has not yet played a game this series. In the two practise matches, he bowled little and without reward. Ravindra Jadeja, the other spinner in the side, has performed reasonably well as the sole tweaker.
However, there is a sentiment among fans and pundits alike that Jadeja is not a good enough bowler to be the sole spinner in overseas conditions. In fact, Graeme Swann and Saqlain Mushtaq both said that Ashwin should play in overseas conditions, vouching for him as a bowler.
With Jadeja coming in to some form with the bat at Lord’s, the selection conundrum continues. That being said, Stuart Binny has done very little of note this series barring his potentially match-saving 78 at Trent Bridge. With MS Dhoni reluctant to give him an extended spell, he is currently packing dead weight in the side, eating a slot that could very easily go to Ashwin.
The other argument that can be made in favour of Ashwin is, of course, his prowess with the willow. He has scored two tons and three half-centuries, at an average of 39.40 and a strike rate of 63.14 to boot. These are staggering figures for a man who bats at No 8 or No 9.
In this series, India’s tail has been more prolific than the top order in some cases. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has far out-scored Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, and even Cheteshwar Pujara. While this may make for an amusing stat, the fact that India have needed their lower order to bail them out of trouble on more than one occasion suggests that they could do with some more firepower down the order.
Whether or not Binny’s bowling might be more effective than Ashwin’s is impossible to tell given that neither have had long enough spells in England to tell. However, Ashwin’s batting is undeniably more dependable than the sometimes overly-aggressive Binny’s.
Perhaps Ashwin has been warming the bench for long enough. It is time he is unleashed on England’s batsmen — and certainly on its bowlers — and see how things go. India are ahead in the series, but there are still some questions that need to be asked. Maybe Ashwin can answer some of them.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)