Injured or not? Ashwin’s omission not clear

At the toss, Virat Kohli said the off-spinner had been rested because he had "aggravated his niggle in the last game." But this is at odds with Ravi Shastri’s and Ajinkya Rahane’s statements ahead of the final Test.

R. Ashwin did not put enough body behind his bowling action at Ageas Bowl, according to commentating former players Harbhajan Singh, Phil Tufnell and Graeme Swann.   -  AFP

It was no surprise, to anyone watching India train in the days leading up to the fifth Test, that R. Ashwin was left out of the side for the match. The off-spinner did not bowl in the nets, and only worked with the team's physiotherapist and trainer. At the toss, Virat Kohli said Ashwin had been rested because he had "aggravated his niggle in the last game." Which means he had a niggle going into the game, and then it got worse.

This is at odds with Ravi Shastri's statement on Wednesday that Ashwin had been fit during the fourth Test in Southampton. On Thursday, Ajinkya Rahane stuck to that line. "Patrick (Farhart, physiotherapist) will be a better judge to answer that. But he played the last Test in Southampton and he bowled really well, and he fielded really well so I don’t think there’s an issue with his fitness."

Indeed, Kohli himself had said, on the eve of the game at the Ageas Bowl, that Ashwin had "recovered nicely" from the stiff hip that had troubled him at Trent Bridge.

Read: Vihari - first India player from Andhra in 19 years

On air, Graeme Swann, Harbhajan Singh and Phil Tuffnell — former spinners and Test cricketers — all clearly felt Ashwin was not completing his action. There was no snap, they thought, not enough body in the action. Perhaps the Indian team management thought Ashwin had minor issues but not ones serious enough to hamper his bowling.

Whatever the case was, India could have admitted that there was a problem rather than deny its existence.

Karun Nair leapfrogged

Then on Friday, India handed G. Hanuma Vihari a Test debut, choosing him as the sixth batsman ahead of Karun Nair. The latter is entitled to feel aggrieved. He was picked in the squad for the first three Tests, ahead of Vihari, and has spent the last six weeks carrying the drinks. In the nets, he has been a bit-part player, mostly giving throw-downs.

Nair has played six Tests, has a Test triple hundred against England to his name, and was an integral part of the successful Karnataka teams of 2013-14 and 14-15. How, Nair might wonder, has he been leapfrogged in the pecking order by Vihari? It is all very well citing Vihari's first-class average of 59 but — and no disrespect to him or the competition — a significant chunk of his domestic runs have been scored in Group C of the Ranji Trophy, which till the end of 2016-17 season housed the weaker sides.

Perhaps Vihari is thought of as an off-spin bowling all-rounder, and he did much bowling in the Indian nets ahead of the fifth Test. But his first-class record — he averages less than four overs a game and has bowled a grand total of 19 overs in 63 matches — would seem to belie that impression. On Friday, he was brought on ahead of Ravindra Jadeja, as early as the 14th over, although he bowled just the one over before lunch. Vihari is not at fault but India's inconsistent selection policy cannot possibly inspire confidence in some of its players.

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