They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. One can apply that theory to the way Ravichandran Ashwin’s spot becomes so dispensable every time India play in an away Test in SENA countries.
Like the previous four Tests in the series against England in the UK, contested last year, he was left out again as India chose a four-pronged seam attack and the lone spinner’s spot went to left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted his disgust in one sentence: “No @ashwinravi99!!!Ridiculous.”
No @ashwinravi99 !!!! Ridiculous .. #ENGvIND
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) 1656671320000
Former England off-spinner and allrounder Moeen Ali had told TOI last week about how the conditions in Edgbaston would be perfect for India to play both R Ashwin and Jadeja.
The feeling that everyone had was that Ashwin will get a look-in, more regularly in overseas games, in the new coaching set up headed by Rahul Dravid, an unabashed supporter of the spinner.
One also felt he will get a chance to feature in Birmingham because he has a very good record against England skipper Ben Stokes, having dismissed him 11 times (the most he has dismissed any batter) and in a shaky top-order, Stokes’ value as a batsman and hence his wicket early becomes important for India. The Edgbaston pitch was also straw coloured and dry.
Ravi Shastri, who was the coach when India last visited England and made the tough call along with skipper Virat Kohli to drop Ashwin, said on air, “Jadeja just fits better in the combination as he adds batting depth. Hence we played him. He can also bowl tight when the wicket is not doing much in the first couple of days and then later on, he can get the ball to turn.”
To that fellow commentator and former England opener and captain, Mark Butcher, replied, “But Ashwin too has five Test hundreds.”
Shastri agreed but again stuck to his guns and revealed he was all set to play in the fourth Test at the Oval. “Ash was very disappointed to be left out. In fact, he was all set to play at the Oval, but 20 minutes before the toss, there was a huge cloud cover and we picked Shardul and he produced a match-winning performance,” he said.
Just after the IPL, during a promotional event in Mumbai, Ashwin (87 wickets vs England), who is just eight scalps away from becoming the highest wicket-taker for India against England, had talked about the frustrations of being left out in England over four Tests. Earlier, he had even said he felt he was thrown under the bus by Shastri when the allrounder had declared in 2019 that Kuldeep Yadav will be the No. 1 spinner overseas.
“I have forgotten what happened in England last year,” he had said. “I will be happy and gunning for the team to win 3-1 because I can turn back and say I was in an Indian team which won in Australia and England. Unfortunately, we couldn’t win in South Africa,” he said.
He had also philosophically said he has been taught to not challenge conditions. Looking at the way rain started pounding the Edgbaston turf close to lunch time, may be the team think tank once again made the best choice seeing the conditions.