Time For Ashwin to Make Comeback to the Indian T20 Team?
At a time when India's T20I bowling is looking at its weakest in the last 4-5 years, it is advisable to go back to the drawing board.
Let's take a guess as to who has been the most successful bowler for India in T20Is?
Jasprit Bumrah? Kuldeep Yadav? Bhuvneshwar Kumar?
No, it has actually been Ravichandran Ashwin.
Ashwin last represented India in T20Is in July 2017 against West Indies after which he was first 'rested' and then dropped. Given that he had only taken 10 wickets from his last 12 T20Is and had leaked a lot of runs, the decision was only fair.
That said, his performances in the T20Is were not as bad, it was actually his one-day form that helped create an overall impression of him being ineffective while in the Indian blue.
“I didn’t do too much wrong to be going out in the white-ball scheme of things. But I definitely believe that it was a zone where I needed to improve and achieve better things. I’m always hopeful of what I can achieve in any given game. I believe I can crack a game open with the way I bowl because I’m a very brave bowler," Ashwin said just before the 2019 ODI World Cup this summer.
Deserves a Chance to Prove His Worth
Ashwin's T20I figures of 52 wickets from 46 matches at an average of 22.9, a strike rate of 19.7 and an economy of under seven are quite good. At the moment, Washington Sundar is bowling with the new ball for India, a role that Ashwin had once mastered.
Remember Ashwin removing Martin Guptill on the very second ball of India's first encounter at the 2016 ICC World T20 which the country hosted?
Just like Ravindra Jadeja has been given his opportunities in order to prove his mettle and compete for the left-arm spinner's spot against Krunal Pandya, Ashwin also deserves a run in order to push Sundar.
Sundar, on his part, has done well with 13 wickets from 13 T20Is at 24.41 and an economy of 6.23, but the team management can always take the final call based on the returns of the two off-spinners.
A big reason why the team management has not been keen on playing both Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav together is their attempt to lengthen the batting line-up and bat till 9 or 10.
Washington Sundar brings this to the table and can add a few useful runs down the order as well. He uses the long handle well and, in fact, has been a playing as a batting all-rounder for Tamil Nadu off late. His clean strikes in the Delhi T20I are a testament to his utility as a batsman at No 7 or 8. Ashwin, on this front, is not without talent either. Many may find it surprising that he has a T20I batting average of over 30. He does need to up the scoring rate but Ashwin has worked on that part of his game and struck at over 140 in TNPL 2019.
Ashwin's host of variations -- carrom ball, flicker, seam-up, slider and even leg spinners -- can add another facet to the Indian bowling line-up.
His erudite cricketing brain can also help Team India tactically and bring in a bowler's perspective into the team's think tank.
Putting in the Performances
Ashwin had a decent IPL 2019 and returned with 15 wickets from 14 matches, more than Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya -- both of whom find themselves in the Indian T20I squad ahead of the veteran spinner. His economy of 7.27 was also acceptable.
In this year's Tamil Nadu Premier League, Ashwin picked up 8 wickets from 7 games for Dindigul Dragons at an average of a shade over 20 and an economy rate of 6.30. He is no mug with the bat either as most already know and contributed 136 runs at an average of 22.66 in the tournament.
Ashwin also recently impressed in the Deodhar Trophy. Playing for India C in Ranchi, he ended as the most effective bowler for the side, conceding just 40 runs in 10 overs while picking up two valuable wickets of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Kedar Jadhav. This, mind you, was no pedestrian competition with the opposition having players of the quality of Priyank Panchal, Parthiv Patel, Vijay Shankar and Krishnappa Gowtham.
Still in the T20 WC Frame
After having lost interest in the game for a brief period, Ashwin has bounced back to confidence with his performances in the Test series against South Africa. This might just be the right time for him to translate his red-ball confidence to the T20I fold.
"I consider myself one of the best, if not the best spinner in Twenty20 cricket. I had a very good IPL last year. I don’t think age is a factor. Imran Tahir is 40. I have the variety and the experience. My hopes are alive."
There are now reports of Ashwin being traded off to Delhi Capitals from Kings XI Punjab. This might actually not be that bad a thing for the off-spinner. Due to the presence of Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Murugan Ashwin in the team, it was tough for Kings XI Punjab to field a balanced XI. And this was when mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy was injured after playing just one match and could not be available for the remaining season.
With Rahul Tewatia not leaving a mark for Delhi Capitals in the last season, this might just be the opportunity that Ashwin needs. A good IPL season coupled with his rich experience may well fetch him a spot in the Indian squad for the 2020 T20 World Cup.
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