Why not Ravichandran Ashwin in the T20I squad?

Statistics highlight that Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav are among the top five bowlers for India in T20Is when playing at home, the venue for the World Cup in October.

Veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin looks on as chinaman Kuldeep Yadav goes through his paces during a nets session.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The last time Ravichandran Ashwin played a T20I match, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was still around and Pakistan had beaten India in an ICC tournament final a month before. 

He fell off the radar when the selectors wanted to test wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in white-ball cricket. 

But now, even Kuldeep is not part of India's T20I squad.

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There is still seven months to go for the T20 World Cup 2021 in India and statistics say that Ashwin and Kuldeep — currently not part of the T20 setup — are among the top five bowlers when Virat Kohli's side is playing at home; top six across all venues.  

The brilliance of Ashwin

Five years ago, in the T20 World Cup quarterfinal thriller against Bangladesh in Bengaluru — which India won by 1 run — the highly-skilled off-spinner returned 2/20 keeping the economy at 5.00 when most of his colleagues, except Ravindra Jadeja, went above 7.00.

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Not to forget his contribution in the Champions Trophy 2013 rain-truncated final victory over England which ended up being a 20-over match. Ashwin held one end with 2/15 in four overs including a maiden. He had Jonathan Trott stumped by Dhoni and then found an edge off Joe Root’s blade with a back of a length ball on the leg stump. 

Ashwin had also taken three catches on that glorious day in Birmingham.

He did not disappear completely. Even till his last few games in the blue jersey, he continued making inroads by picking up the right wicket at the right time besides being a successful bowler in the Indian Premier League (IPL).  

Spin twin no more

Kuldeep and Chahal had a fair bit of success with the latter now being the top wicket-taker in T20Is. In fact, Kuldeep has been part of nine Indian wins out of 11 games at home. Ashwin has won eight out of 16.

Ravichandran Ashwin, the champ of Chepauk

Unfortunately, the left-armer walked into the unknown after failing to create an impact in two editions of the IPL.

Top 5 Indian T20I bowlers at home

Y Chahal (2017-2021)22 matches32 wicketsBBI 6/25Economy 8.43
J Bumrah (2016-2020)25 matches26 wicketsBBI 3/14Economy 6.42
R Ashwin (2011-2016)16 matches19 wicketsBBI 4/8Economy 7.16
K Yadav (2017-2020)11 matches18 wicketsBBI 3/13Economy 8.00
B Kumar (2012-2021)18 matches16 wicketsBBI 3/9Economy 7.60

 

Ashwin has been a popular character in the IPL for his cricketing brain. His 38 wickets in the last three seasons was no surprise but the tournament pushed Kuldeep into rough waters.

He picked up only four wickets in nine games followed by an ordinary 50-over World Cup in the UK with six wickets in seven outings.

Ashwin in IPL (154 matches, 138 wickets, BBM 4/34, Economy 6.87)

 

It became worse in the 2020 edition when he picked up only one wicket in five games.

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Kuldeep was dropped in the middle of the tournament with mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy stepping up to maintain the deceptive element in Kolkata Knight Riders.

Kuldeep in IPL (45 matches, 40 wickets, BBM 4/20, Economy 8.27)

 

In a good mind space after the series wins over Australia and England, switching formats will not be too hard for Ashwin. But for Kuldeep, who has been part of tours without getting in the XI, it will be a challenge. 

Kuldeep's notable T20I performances include the fifer against England in Manchester, 4/21 against Ireland in Malahide and the 3/13 against the West Indies in Kolkata. He completely choked the middle-order by getting rid of Darren Bravo, Rovman Powell and Carlos Brathwaite.

Top six Indian T20I bowlers (home, away, neutral)

Y Chahal (2016-2021)48 matches62 wicketsBBI 6/25Economy 8.40
J Bumrah (2016-2020)50 matches59 wicketsBBI 3/11Economy 6.66
R Ashwin (2010-2017)46 matches52 wicketsBBI 4/8Economy 6.97
B Kumar (2012-2021)46 matches42 wicketsBBI 5/24Economy 7.04
R Jadeja (2009-2020)50 matches39 wicketsBBI 3/48Economy 7.10
K Yadav (2017-2020)21 matches39 wicketsBBI 5/24Economy 7.11

 

With valuable additions such as Axar Patel and Washington Sundar, the competition will get tougher in the long run but Kuldeep needs to dig deep to recreate the X factor. 

Since Chakravarthy has been repeatedly failing to clear the fitness test at the National Cricket Academy, a string of match-winning spells in the IPL can come handy for the chinaman as the countdown to the T20 World Cup starts.