Former Australia captain Ian Chappell said that India need to find a way to fit off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin into the eleven. Chappell feels Ashwin is a fine bowler in all conditions, especially after doing well in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2020/21 in Australia earlier this year.
“India’s best combination includes R Ashwin. He is a fine bowler under all conditions, as he proved in Australia, so India need to find a way to fit him into the XI,” wrote Chappell in his column for ESPNCricinfo on Sunday.
He felt left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja’s promotion to No. 5 during the fourth Test at The Oval may have solved India’s problem of balance in the eleven. The Indian team management, in the recent Test series against England, preferred Jadeja over Ashwin in the eleven.
“In trying to find a balance between the right- and left-hand batters in the middle order at The Oval, they may have inadvertently stumbled on the solution — Ravindra Jadeja at No. 5. If Jadeja proves good enough to hold down that spot in the order, the other piece required to complete the puzzle is a seam-bowling allrounder. The ideal player would be a fully fit Hardik Pandya, but they do have a second choice in Shardul Thakur.”
Chappell believes a middle-order featuring Jadeja, Ashwin, Pandya and Rishabh Pant could provide substantial lower-order runs for India.
“That is the great strength of this Indian side. They have substantial depth. A middle order that reads Jadeja, Rishabh Pant, Pandya and Ashwin should provide the runs expected of that section. With three fast bowlers to follow, the batting is then supported by a versatile attack. That’s the advantage of having a strong, well-balanced attack – you don’t need huge scores to chase victory.”
The 77-year-old pointed out the advantages of his choice of middle order batsmen. “The other good point about that middle order is that it’s interchangeable. Skill-wise, Pant is the best batter of that lot. He’s capable of restraint when the situation demands, so he could easily handle No. 5, especially when India bat first. However, if he’s had a long stint in the field, he could slide down the order to allow Jadeja to come in at five. Pandya also has the potential to handle No. 5, and given encouragement, he could fulfil the role.
“Another attribute of that trio is their powerful strokeplay. The ability to accelerate the scoring rate is essential in Test cricket and those three are an ideal combination to take advantage of a good start to the innings. They are also a perfect fit for situations where the team is either chasing or setting a target.”
Chappell felt the only downside of his choice of middle order will be on Ajinkya Rahane’s place in the eleven and backed opener Rohit Sharma to take up vice-captain duties.
“The only downside would be the loss of Ajinkya Rahane’s tactical input and his slip fielding to the spinners. Nevertheless, Rohit Sharma is now an acclaimed captain and he’s capable of handling the vice-captaincy role.”
Chappell concluded by saying the high priority for selectors should be to get Ashwin in the eleven.
“Tweaking the Indian middle order to accommodate the skills of Ashwin should be a priority for the selectors. It’s a scary thought for the other Test sides that Virat Kohli’s highly successful team can be improved.”