A Surprising Turn in Selection
In a turn of events marked by both surprise and inevitability, offspinner R Ashwin finds himself donning the prestigious colours of India’s final 15 for the 2023 Cricket World Cup, replacing left-arm spinner Axar Patel. It has been discerned that Axar, having departed the Asia Cup due to a quadriceps strain, necessitates at least three more weeks for a full recovery.
The Deadline Day
Today marks the deadline for teams to effectuate changes to their World Cup squads, with the International Cricket Council allowing no room for questions. Post this date, any alterations will require the approval of the World Cup’s technical committee, making Ashwin’s inclusion all the more significant. He, along with Virat Kohli, are the sole players in this squad who had the honour of being part of India’s triumphant 2011 World Cup journey.
A Journey of Return
Ashwin’s return to the squad has unfolded rather unexpectedly. Initially, he was absent from the 15-man squad unveiled by the BCCI in late August. The chief selector, Ajit Agarkar, had then elucidated that while Ashwin was in contention, the preference was given to Axar for his ability to deepen the batting lineup. However, with Axar’s injury during the Asia Cup and his subsequent return to the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, the dynamics changed, paving the way for Ashwin’s return.
The Series Against Australia
Following Axar’s injury, both Washington Sundar and Ashwin were incorporated into the three-match ODI series against Australia, a series that saw India emerge victorious with a 2-1 lead. This series marked Ashwin’s first appearance in ODIs for India in 18 months, showcasing his enduring skill with figures of 1 for 47 and 3 for 41 in the first two games before being rested for the third.
The Coach’s Words
India’s head coach, Rahul Dravid, had initially asserted post the third ODI that the World Cup squad would remain unchanged. However, the evolving circumstances surrounding Axar’s rehabilitation led to a re-evaluation, culminating in Ashwin’s inclusion. Ashwin, with his wealth of experience from 115 ODIs and a plethora of variations in his bowling arsenal, stands as the only specialist offspinner in India’s World Cup squad.
The Captain’s Insight
Rohit Sharma, the captain of India, highlighted Ashwin’s invaluable experience and class, stating, “Ashwin has got the class, he’s got experience of playing the sport and handling the pressure. It’s just that he hasn’t played ODIs [for] a year or so. But you cannot take away the class and the experience that the individual has over the years, and in the last couple of games [against Australia], we saw how well he bowled.”
India’s Updated World Cup Squad
The updated squad now features Rohit Sharma as captain, with notable players like Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, and of course, the newly included R Ashwin, among others.
Ashwin’s unexpected inclusion in the World Cup squad underscores the unpredictable nature of sports selections, highlighting the importance of experience and adaptability in the face of unforeseen circumstances. His journey back into the squad is a testament to his enduring class and skill, promising a thrilling performance in the upcoming World Cup.
The unfolding of events leading to Ashwin’s inclusion in India’s World Cup squad is a narrative of persistence, adaptability, and unswerving dedication to the sport, painting a vivid tableau of the ever-evolving landscape of international cricket.