Sunil Gavaskar is stunned by the “astonishing’’ omission of Ravichandran Ashwin from the Indian squad that is playing the first Test against the West Indies. He is not alone. Millions of cricket fans the world over must be reacting with bewilderment at the team management’s decision not to play the off spinner who has always been considered to be the country’s No 1 spin bowler in Tests even if he has lost his place in limited overs cricket. This exalted status is his by right given his outstanding feats.
First consider his overall record. He has 342 wickets from 65 Tests at an average of 25.43. In the last Test that he played in Australia he had a match haul of six wickets. He was among the wickets while playing for Nottinghamshire in the country championship last month. More to the point he has an excellent record against West Indies. On the previous trip there three years ago he finished with the highest tally of wickets – 17. Overall in 11 Tests against the West Indies he has taken 60 wickets at 21.85 apiece.
While his omission as a bowler is the subject of much focus right now it must not be forgotten that Ashwin is a genuine all-rounder having scored 2361 runs at an average of 29 with four hundreds. He has a particularly good record against the West Indies having made 552 runs at an average of 50 and all his four hundreds have been hit against this opposition.
How a player with such a proven record with bat and ball can be omitted can only be termed baffling. Ashwin remains one of India’s greatest match winners in Test cricket and he holds the Indian record for man of the series awards and only six Indians have won more match awards than him. One of those man of the series awards came on India’s last tour of the West Indies when besides those 17 wickets he also got two hundreds in the process becoming the first Indian to score a hundred and take five wickets in a Test twice.
There can be absolutely no justification at leaving out Ashwin. If India plays one specialist spin bowler – as they are in the ongoing Test – it has to be him. Besides the obvious skill factor Ashwin has an almost psychological hold over this opposition given the number of feats he has notched up against them. The team management certainly has some explaining to do.