For India captain Virat Kohli, the return of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to the white-ball squad is a sign of the evolving T20I game.
When India announced their squad for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021, one of the names that caught the eye of fans was that of Ravichandran Ashwin.
Ashwin is No.2 on the MRF Tyres ICC Men's Test Bowling Rankings and has been a match-winner with the red-ball in hand. However, he hasn't featured in the XI in India's T20I side since July 2017.
In a media interaction, Kohli explained that the call-up was "reward" for Ashwin for his performances in domestic T20 tournaments, and also an acknowledgement of the evolution of the T20 game.
"Ashwin has been rewarded for reviving his white-ball skills altogether," Kohli said. "[He bowls] with a lot of courage in white-ball cricket.
The quote that powered Ravichandran Ashwin’s belief and the ‘masterstroke’ of bringing MS Dhoni in as a mentor.— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) September 9, 2021
India’s stars of past and present react to their #T20WorldCup squad 👇https://t.co/v0J0LFKmtM
"If you saw the IPL in the last couple of years, he’s bowled difficult overs, he’s bowled against the top players in the IPL, and not being shy to put the ball in the right areas. Spinners can get intimidated by the way power hitters hit the ball, but Ashwin believed in his skill set.
"We felt like the way he was bowling and his variations now and his control over pace is something which is ... again a lot of experience, a guy who has played a lot of international cricket and he’s at his confident best. These guys can go in there and change the game with their spells."
In recent years, bowlers who can take the ball away from right-hand batters have been most successful in the shortest format. In the current T20I rankings, for instance, seven of the top 10 are either wrist-spinners or left-arm orthodox spinners. One is a mystery spinner. However, this might be changing, with off-spinners like Ashwin ready to bowl in the Powerplay overs, and especially strong against left-hand batters.
Ashwin has been rewarded for reviving his white-ball skills altogether.
Until now, said Kohli, "Wrist spinners were the ones in demand, mostly through that middle period, but now the finger spinners with that accuracy have come back into the game again, so we also have to evolve as a team with the evolving trend of the game.
"With Ash and the likes of [left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja] as well, performing beautifully … These guys can be very consistent."
West Indies skipper Kieron Pollard agreed with Kohli's assessment. For the defending champions, Roston Chase comes in as an off-spin option after strong performances in the Caribbean Premier League over the last couple of years, with Fabian Allen as another finger-spin option.
An explosive opener, an Indian legend, and two clever short-form bowlers take the first four spots in Kieron Pollard’s top five T20 players.— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) October 6, 2021
The fifth player? Let’s just say he knows more about him than anyone else 😂https://t.co/dj6NRyqI1u
"At one point in time, the wrist spinners used to dominate," Pollard said. "You want a right-arm wrist spinner or the left-arm back-of-the-arm [unorthodox bowler]. But in the recent past, for whatever reason, I don’t know if it’s conditions, finger spinners have come back into favour.
"They have more control in different situations and difficult situations as well, as to where they want to put the ball where it’s actually needed. So if you want a guy to consistently bowl to a bigger side of the ground, and you have a finger spinner bowling there, he has more control.
"For us, we have a couple of finger spinners in our armoury and hopefully we can maximise the dimensions of the ground and whatever spin is there, at whatever given time, we can use that against the opposition."
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