Former India Test captain Anil Kumble believes that off-spinner R Ashwin remains India's leading long-format spinner, despite being left out of the XI for each of the two Tests on the recent tour of the West Indies.
Ashwin's last Test appearance came in the first of four Tests during India's tour of Australia in 2018-19, played in Adelaide. He suffered an abdomen injury during the game, ruling him out of the remainder of the series, and hasn't played a Test since.
Kumble, who with 619 wickets is India's leading wicket-taker in the longest format, and the third-highest overall, believes that the team needs a way to draft Ashwin into the XI.
He should be a part of the squad, he should be in the playing XI, you have to make a way of getting him in.
"He is still the best spinner that you have," Kumble told CricketNext. "Yes, there have been a few incidents where he has had injuries and not performed to his potential, but Ashwin is your No.1 spinner in the team. He should be a part of the squad, he should be in the playing XI, you have to make a way of getting him in."
Ashwin, who currently has 342 Tests wickets, boasts a bowling strike-rate of 53.7, the best for a spinner in the five-day format with a minimum of 200 wickets. India, however, went in with three seamers and a lone spinner in Ravindra Jadeja in each of the two Tests against West Indies, with Hanuma Vihari filling in as the fifth bowler with his part time off-breaks.
Ravi Shastri, the team's head coach, had cited Jadeja's fielding skills and improvements on the batting front as the reasons for his inclusion.
"Jaddu's record is fabulous," Shastri had said on the opening day of the second Test in Jamaica. "You have to see what he brings to the table. He's arguably the best fielder in the world now. He's improved his batting like hell. And if you see these tracks, I don't think there will be much on offer for the spinner, so you would need control."
Kumble, however, believes that the batting skills of both Jadeja and Ashwin, who are currently ranked fourth and seventh respectively, in the MRF Tyres ICC Men's Test Rankings for All-rounders, presents a strong case for inclusion of both in the team.
I strongly believe that the team certainly can have two spinners in the squad, because both Ashwin and Jadeja are wonderful batsmen.
"I strongly believe that the team certainly can have two spinners in the squad, because both Ashwin and Jadeja are wonderful batsmen," the former coach said. "Ashwin has had four Test hundreds, Jadeja has been really consistent with the bat. He did that again in the West Indies. He's a wonderful bowler, too, and both of them in tandem can certainly be a handful for the opposition. So yes, when India travel outside, it's not always that you get four bowlers to pick up 20 wickets.
"Ideally, if you have a combination of three fast bowlers and two spinners, wherein your two spinners can also contribute with the bat, that's the perfect scenario. And you have two front-line spinners who are equally good as batsmen, so I think it's just a matter of time. I strongly believe that Ashwin will certainly make it into the playing XI.
"So the management needs to look at that, and I am a bit surprised that someone with the ability and quality of Ashwin is sitting out in a Test match."
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