Ravi Shastri, India’s head coach, has explained the exclusion of R Ashwin from both of India’s Test matches on their ongoing tour of the West Indies.
Ashwin’s non-selection turned out to be a contentious move, both because he has for long been India’s No.1 long-format spinner, as well as his excellent record in the islands, underpinned by two centuries in four Tests, a batting average of 58.75, alongside 17 wickets at 23.17, including two five-wicket hauls.
However, the Tamil Nadu off-spinner has been pipped in the race for the overseas spinner’s slot by all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who has played both Tests on the tour. "The reason why we picked Jadeja in the first Test was in case we fielded, and the track was damp, with his pace, he would have made life a little awkward for the batsmen,” Shastri told host broadcaster SPN Sports. “He could have been used on the first session of play on day one.”
Ashwin hasn’t been a regular feature of the Indian XI in overseas Tests for quite some time now. Since the start of 2018, the off-spinner has taken part in only seven of the 14 Tests that India have played away from home.
Owing to a combination of form and fitness, Ashwin featured in only five of the nine Tests that India played in England and Australia during their previous overseas cycle, in the 2018-19 season, and in those games, picked up 17 wickets without a single five-for.
In that timeframe, Kuldeep Yadav, the left-arm wrist-spinner, has taken a five-wicket haul in Australia, a performance that had prompted Shastri to then proclaim that Kuldeep would be India’s top choice for the overseas spinner.
"It is a difficult decision to leave out Ashwin or Kuldeep,” Shastri said. "Look at 'Jaddu' [Jadeja], his record is fabulous. You have to see what he brings to the table. He is probably the best fielder in the world now, and he has improved his batting like hell.
“And from what I have seen of this track [in Jamaica], I don't think there would be much on offer for the spinners where you would need control."
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