IND v AUS: Confusion over R. Ashwin’s fitness shows India in a poor light

On matters of fitness, there needs to be greater transparency from the Indian team-management.

R. Ashwin had bowled at batted at the nets at the SCG, signifying his probable participation in the Test. But it wasn’t to be.   -  AFP

The fiasco over R. Ashwin’s injury and all the speculation about his availability for the fourth Test — it continued till the morning of the Test — does not present Indian cricket in good light.

Look at the events that transpired on Wednesday. Virat Kohli announced Ashwin would not be a part of the team for the final Test here. “He is not 100 per cent fit, we are all disappointed,” he said.

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However, news from very reliable sources in the team-management trickled in soon. It said Ashwin suffering a relapse of the abdominal injury, as feared, was only a false alarm. “It’s only a minor niggle. He should be all right and is certain to play,” the source said to Sportstar.

And out of nowhere, Ashwin was in the list of 13 players shortlisted for the match.

Taking no risk

Ashwin had been bowling and batting in the nets here and it was assumed that he would play, even if it meant taking painkillers, in such an important game. It is believed coach Ravi Shastri and bowling coach Bharat Arun were keen on Ashwin taking the field at Sydney and teaming up with Ravindra Jadeja.

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Yet, Kohli has this obsession with 100 per cent fitness and he might not have wanted to take a risk with Ashwin. Particularly since playing Ashwin — he had been grappling with a groin strain — in the Southampton Test against England backfired.

On a surface where England off-spinner Moeen Ali, getting considerable purchase from the pitch, struck telling blows for England, a struggling Ashwin sent down 37.1 overs for disappointing figures of one for 84. He simply was not fit for the game.

Double bluff?

There is also the possibility of Ashwin himself pulling out of the game at the last minute — he did bowl in the morning ahead of the fourth Test — since he was not totally convinced about his fitness. Or including and then leaving out Ashwin could have been a double bluff by the team management to catch the host unaware about the threat of Kuldeep Yadav.

Was the ploy instigated to catch Australia unaware about the threat of Kuldeep Yadav? Photo: Getty Images

 

Unfortunately for Ashwin, his injury concerns have surfaced at the worst possible time for India, both in England and now in Australia. India’s No. 1 spinner needs to get himself fit.

The BCCI should not have Yo Yo Test as the only yardstick for India selection. Yo Yo is useful in telling us about stamina and lung power. But what about the other areas of fitness? For instance, Jadeja came into this tour carrying a shoulder injury. And this was made known to the media only after the second Test at Perth in which he should have featured.

Ahead of a series, a complete and comprehensive fitness assessment has to be made, not just the Yo Yo test. On matters of fitness, there needs to be greater transparency from the team-management.