LONDON (AP) — India defended leaving out the world’s No. 1-ranked test bowler on the first day of the World Test Championship final at the Oval on Wednesday.
Offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin was dropped for Umesh Yadav after conditions were deemed more suitable for a fourth seamer.
But the decision backfired. The green-tinged pitch lost its bite when the sun came out after an hour. India took only three wickets and none for most of the last four hours. Australia finished on 327-3 after an unbeaten partnership of 251 runs by Travis Head (146) and Steve Smith (95).
Yadav and the sole spinner, allrounder Ravindra Jadeja, went wicketless in 28 overs. There didn’t appear to be much turn for Jadeja on the first day.
Captain Rohit Sharma said the conditions dictated excluding Ashwin, a frequent match-winner for India, and bowling coach Paras Mhambrey defended it.
“It’s always a very difficult decision to drop a champion bowler like that,” Mhambrey said. “But I thought the conditions in the morning, having the additional seamer would definitely be beneficial. It has worked in the past. You can always look at hindsight, saying (an) additional spinner would have been a different (story).”
Mhambrey blamed the India bowlers for losing their discipline after a bright start.
“The first 12, 15 overs, we really bowled in the right areas,” he said. “But after a little bit, I thought we kind of weren’t disciplined. That’s one of the reasons I thought we conceded a little more runs than we ideally would have preferred.”