Till last week, aficionados and connoisseurs alike, were busy discussing whether Axar Patel was better suited to be India’s No. 8 in the forthcoming Men’s Cricket World Cup or would Shardul Thakur be more useful in the same role.
The personnel may have changed but the debate rages on. From the Indian management perspective, however, the option is simple. Or so it looked during India’s first official nets session, albeit optional, for the World Cup.
Considering the travel and workload that the team has been through over the last month and lying ahead for the next two, it wasn’t surprising that only four players joined the support staff entourage for a practice session at the Amingaon Cricket Ground, on the outskirts of the city.
What was not at all surprising was Ravichandran Ashwin and Shardul Thakur being among them. The duo had an extensive batting and bowling workout under a scorching sun on Friday afternoon, ahead of India’s warm-up tie against England on Saturday.
After the warm-up drills, Shardul headed to the centre of the ground, bowling to Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan for a long time. Ashwin, meanwhile, walked to the nets behind the pavilion and batted for well over 45 minutes.
Batting against spin, not only did Ashwin practice sweep shots frequently but even tried out reverse-sweep, connecting the shot more often than not. Later on, with Shardul having taken a break, Ashwin walked onto the centre pitch, facing India’s throwdown specialist trio for a second stint.
Both Ashwin and Shardul batted in tandem for a while. Even after Shardul was done with his stint, Ashwin changed his gears and bowled for half an hour under the watchful eyes of bowling coach Paras Mhambrey.
The training session was a clear giveaway that Shardul and Ashwin will carry on the Indian team management’s quest for finding the right balance, irrespective of the conditions and the opposition. In all likelihood, one of the two will feature at No. 8 in India’s batting order.
In fact, bringing Ashwin into the scheme of things may have been a well-planned move by the management. The injury to Axar may have resulted in making Ashwin’s inclusion smoother. Captain Rohit Sharma had stated just after the Asia Cup final that he was in constant touch with the veteran offie.
Ashwin may have hardly played any ODIs ever since the 2017 Champions Trophy, when the Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri combine decided to adopt the wrist-spin mantra. But his inclusion may make selection matters even more interesting.
With Axar, he was always going to be a backup spin option to Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja. But Ashwin, the offspinner, can be as potent as any other spinner in the world. As a result, choosing two between Kuldeep, Jadeja and Ashwin will be much more challenging for the management.
Can the Ashwin experiment work? Or will Shardul continue to be India’s primary No. 8? We will know it in Chennai in little over a week from now.
- Australia vs New Zealand LIVE Score, World Cup 2023: NZ 324/7 (44 overs); Neesham fights to get NZ home
- IND vs ENG, World Cup 2023: India, looking to extend winning run, faces bruised and battered England
- Asian Shooting Championships: Manu Bhaker finishes fifth, secures 11th quota for India at Paris 2024 Olympics
- Netherlands vs Bangladesh Live Score, ICC World Cup 2023: BAN needs 230 runs to win vs NED
- ISL 2023-24: Chennaiyin hopes to break duck at home against newly-promoted Punjab