India made a bold move of leaving out Ravichandran Ashwin from their playing XI for the first Test against West Indies at North Sound in Antigua. The Virat Kohli-led team instead went in with the lone specialist spinner in Ravindra Jadeja to partner three pacers in the four-bowler side.
India also left out Rohit Sharma and picked Hanuma Vihari for the middle-order slot. Vihari can chip in with his off-spin – a facet of his game that could have tilted the scale in his favour.
Ashwin has been India’s preferred spinner in Test cricket, but frequent fitness issues hurt him last season. He missed the final Test at the Oval during the England tour with an injury and played only one of India’s four Tests in the Australia tour.
Now, his exclusion from India’s starting XI in the Antigua Test has left former captain Sunil Gavaskar stunned.
Aswin holds the Indian record for Man-of-the-Series awards, and only six Indians have won more match awards than him. One of those series awards and two of those match awards came on India’s last tour of the West Indies, which is why Gavaskar was lost for words at the selection of playing XI.
“[The selection] astonished me,” Gavaskar said during commentary on Sony. “A man with that kind of record, especially against West Indies. He doesn’t find a place in this playing XI. That is stunning. Astonishing.”
— The Cricket Times (@CricketTimesHQ) August 22, 2019
In 11 Tests against West Indies, Ashwin has picked up 60 wickets at 21.85 and has scored four centuries to give him an average of over 50.
In his last international match for India, Ashwin took three wickets each in Australia’s two innings and also helped rescue India with the bat from 120 for 6 on the first morning of the series. His Test career now stands at 65 matches for 342 wickets at 25.43 and 2361 runs at 29.14. He is the fastest in the world to complete both 250 and 300 Test wickets.