Time for a tweak

Saqlain calls for inclusion of off-spinner Ashwin in the Indian bowling attack ahead of the third Test against England

London

Former Pakistan spin bowling legend Saqlain Mushtaq joined the chorus for the inclusion of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in the India’s playing XI against England for the third Test, starting at Southampton on Sunday.

“England had six left-handed batsmen in their eleven. Why aren’t they playing R Ashwin? Isn’t it an obvious choice if they really want to play five bowlers?” asked Mushtaq.

“It is understandable that they didn’t want to play him at Lord’s. It was such a green-top wicket that you couldn’t differentiate between the pitch and the outfield on day one. The pitch eventually took some turn on days four and five.

“But nobody will play two spinners on such a track thinking that it will turn later. But why didn’t they play two spinners in the first Test at Nottingham on that flat track?” he said.

Indian skipper MS Dhoni had admitted that they “read the pitch wrong” at Trent Bridge and had also said that India will continue to play five bowlers depending on pitch and conditions.

He did not bowl his ‘fifth bowler’ in Stuart Binny at all in the second innings at Lord’s and after the victory when the question was put to him, Dhoni declined that two spinners were even in his frame of mind.

That might explain why Ashwin hasn’t played a single Test in the last eight months. His last Test outing was against South Africa in Johannesburg where he returned 0-108 in 42 overs (over two innings) in a drawn match.

Jadeja had come in afterwards and taken his career-best haul of 6-138 at Durban. He has since been a part of the Test playing eleven, featuring in both Tests in New Zealand and the first two on-tour here in England.

“At Lord’s they could have obviously played only one spinner, and Ravindra Jadeja was Dhoni’s choice, no doubt. It seems, he prefers Jadeja in the longer format, while Ashwin is the preferred spinner in one-day cricket. Amit Mishra is his preferred option in T20 cricket if you see recent results.

“Different formats have different bowlers, but then you have to consider that India want to play five bowlers,” said Mushtaq.

Asked how soon can India play two spinners then, Mushtaq said, “In my county cricket experience, we always played two spinners, irrespective of day one conditions. Even if seamers ruled on the first two days, the wickets will obviously dry out by days three and four. Whether the opposition has more left-handers or more right-handers, both spinners benefit.

“What helped was the fact that our lower-order batsmen were all very good. So they would add 35-40 runs easily and it helped in picking two spinners then,” the legendary spinner said.

“Jadeja is an okay batsman. But Ashwin has two Test hundreds to his name. So you can play two spinners as it will be a better all-round bowling attack. I think it is an obvious call for Dhoni,” he said. —PTI

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