Gavaskar “astonished” at Ashwin’s omission in Antigua
Sunil Gavaskar found R Ashwin's exclusion astonishing. (AFP Image)

India’s decision to leave out R Ashwin for the first Test against West Indies baffled many but none more than Sunil Gavaskar. The former India batsman was left “astonished” when he did not see Ashwin’s name in India’s Playing XI with Virat Kohli sticking to Ravindra Jadeja as India’s lone spinner.

READ: Rahane leads India’s recovery in Antigua

Ashwin has had tremendous success against West Indies in the past, with both bat and ball. All of Ashwin’s four Test hundreds have come against West Indies and with 552 runs, the offspinner averages over 50 against them with the bat. As for his bowling, Ashwin has picked up a staggering 60 wickets from 11 Tests averaging 21.85 with four five-wicket-hauls against the Windies. The last time India toured the Caribbean in 2016, Ashwin bagged 17 wickets from four Tests.

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“[The selection] astonished me,” Gavaskar said during commentary on Sony. “A man with that kind of record, especially against West Indies. He doesn’t find a place in this playing XI. That is stunning. Astonishing.”

READ: Ashwin doesn’t want to set goals or put pressure on himself

This is the fourth Test in a row that Ashwin has sat out. He last played Test cricket for India during the first match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia. Having taken six wickets, Ashwin injured himself on the fourth morning of the Adelaide Test in December which further aggravated. He went on to miss the second and third Tests in Melbourne and Perth with a “left-sided abdominal strain”. Ashwin resumed his race against time to be fit for the final Test in Sydney and was even named in the 13 named for the finale but sat out.

Following an impressive county stint with Nottinghamshire – where in three matches, Ashwin snared 17 wickets, with three five-wicket-hauls, including a match tally of 12/144 and an unbeaten 66 against Surrey – Ashwin was expected to play in Antigua, more so because he had bowled in the practice against the West Indies Board President’s XI.

While the call to leave Ashwin out puzzled Gavaskar and many others, India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane defended the decision and felt the team needed Jadeja as the lone spinner and Hanuma Vihari as a sixth batsman.

“It’s difficult when you miss a player like Ashwin but team management is always thinking as to what’s the best combination, he said.

“They thought Jadeja was a good option on this wicket as we needed a sixth batsman, who can actually bowl. Vihari can actually bowl on this track. So that was the communication between captain and coach. It is hard to find players like Ashwin and Rohit (Sharma) sit out but’s all for the team.”