After missing out playing the four Tests in England earlier this year, spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was back to his wicket-taking best at home, scalping 14 wickets and winning his 9th Player of the Series award. Ashwin picked up six wickets in the drawn Kanpur Test against New Zealand and bettered it with 8 in Mumbai, where India won by 372 runs and clinched the series 2-1.
Along the way, Ashwin achieved a few impressive feats as well, including becoming India’s third-highest wicket-taker, taking 50 wickets in the year and bagging 300 Test wickets at home. And yet, the off-spinner may not be certain of finding a place in the XI the next time India plays a Test match, against South Africa starting December 26 in Johannesburg.
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With Ashwin missing the England Tests, former England pacer Steve Harmison feels he is not sure whether the spinner will be featuring at the Wanderers Stadium, saying one can never read what is going on in Kohli’s mind. Harmison added that Kohli would do what he thinks is the best composition for his team, even if that means dropping an in-form Ashwin from the Playing XI, in place of probably a fourth pacer.
“The problem I find in predicting this Indian side is… there’s logic and then there’s Kohli’s idea of what the team should be. Who on earth would have thought that Ashwin would have missed so much cricket against England? You can never what Virat wants… what he is trying or his thinking process is,” Harmison said on his YouTube channel.
“You would think the 2 young guys in Iyer and Agarwal would be going to South Africa on the back of scoring 100s in this series, it wouldn’t surprise me if Rahane and Pujara plays and wouldn’t surprise me if Ashwin doesn’t play.”
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The former England pacer also weighed in on the possibility of Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel hanging on to their places. Jadeja picked up four wickets in Kanpur and peeled off a half-century, while Patel picked up a five-for in the first Test as well. While Harmison is not certain about Axar, he is confident that Jadeja would get a place in the team given what he brings to the table with both bat and ball.
“Jadeja is important for this team with Pant at No. 6 and 7. Even though Axar can bat and so can Ashwin. But Jadeja bats nicely at 7 and I still think there is room for one more spinner. The skill level for Ashwin is as good as any seam bowler would bowl on any seam-friendly wicket,” added Harmison.
“But this guy is so skillful, so meticulous and can create so much pressure that even your fourth seamer cannot be as threatening as R Ashwin. And then you pick your three fast bowlers, which for me would be Shami, Bumrah and Siraj.”