'Skillful spinners don’t rely on turning tracks' - Tendulkar critical of India's decision to leave out R Ashwin
When even the ever-uncontroversial Sachin Tendulkar takes gripe with your decision-making and publicly expresses his sense of disapproval, you should know you've faltered quite miserably. The 'Master Blaster' took the Indian team management to task for their decision to leave out premier spinner R Ashwin after the painstaking loss in the final of the World Test Championship (WTC).
Tendulkar questioned coach Rahul Dravid and skipper Rohit Sharma's call to axe the great tweaker, who was India's highest wicket-taker for the WTC 2021-23 cycle in the build-up to the final. Ashwin warmed the bench even on a track that behaved rather dry over the course of the five days despite his immense skill with the ball and dependability as a lower-order bat.
While Dravid and the management pressed their case hard by insisting on the overcast conditions on the first morning, prominent experts, including the Australian great Ricky Ponting, questioned the logic of basing an influential move on the nature of the skies on Day 1 while ignoring how the realms might shape up over the course of five days.
It hurt India badly as they neither found control from their first-change seamers nor had the depth to their batting department to withstand the Australian pace battery. Noting it down in his assessment of the game, Tendulkar felt Ashwin's ouster from the plans was a matter of costly misjudgement.
Tendulkar critical of Rohit-Dravid over Ashwin axe
Taking to Twitter, the legendary Tendulkar lashed out at the Indian team management by stating R Ashwin remains a "skilful" operator, who "don't always rely on turning tracks".
An idea vindicated by the record. Since the beginning of 2018, times of the fast-bowling pandemic, Ashwin had the best average for spinners in the SENA countries until the WTC final, where Nathan Lyon, with his late chip-away against the Indian lower-order and figures of 4/41 surpassed him by a fraction.
"I fail to understand the exclusion of R Ashwin in the playing XI, who is currently the number one Test bowler in the world," Tendulkar tweeted. "Like I had mentioned before the match, skillful spinners don’t always rely on turning tracks, they use drift in the air and bounce off the surface to disguise their variations. Not to forget, Australia had 5 left-handers out of their top 8 batters."
Congratulations to Team Australia on winning the #WTCFinal. @stevesmith49 and @travishead34 set a solid foundation on Day one itself to tilt the game in their favour. India had to bat big in the first innings to stay in the game, but they couldn’t. There were some good moments…— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) June 11, 2023
Notably, this was India's sixth consecutive Test in England where they left out R Ashwin from their plans and preferred a four-pace combo in presence of premier allrounder Ravindra Jadeja. Ashwin's impressive performance in the last final of the WTC in Southampton against New Zealand could also prove to be his last outing in the country.