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India’s huge loss at ICC World Test: Exclusion of Ashwin biggest self-inflicted wound

By Bharat Dogra 

India’s huge loss in the ICC World Test Championship match has come as a big disappointment for cricket lovers—not just in India—who were expecting a keen contest. After this match the most honorable course of action for Rohit Sharma would be to resign as India’s Test captain.
No, it is not because India lost. Such things do happen in sports. Winning and losing is a part of sports and should be taken in that spirit.
No, this is also not because of the poor performance of Rohit Sharma himself, (coming on top of other recent poor scores). He has been a great batsman for India over the years. Such rough patches of performance can happen from time to time to any sportsperson, no matter how great.
The reason why he should resign is because of the self-inflicted loss he caused even before the important world championship match even started. This he achieved by dropping Ravichandran Ashwin from the Indian team. In ICC ranking Ashwin is ranked as the number one test bowler at world level and as the number two test all-rounder. How can anyone even think of dropping such a player, and that too from such a crucial match?
In fact if there are two players in the Indian team who select themselves on the basis of their performance and capabilities these are Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. In addition they bowl very well in partnership when a double spin attack is needed.
As soon as the decision not to include Ashwin in the chosen 11 for the match became known, comments of great disappointment were heard repeatedly. Such cricket greats as Sunil Gavaskar and Ricky Ponting trashed this decision immediately. As they pointed, out such a great performer and deeply committed player cannot be left out on the basis of pitch conditions alone. As it turned out, the Indian captain’s reading of the pitch conditions also turned to be rather poor.
As Ravichandran Ashwin is a very thinking cricketer, and as his selection in the final eleven was almost certain, he must have spent a lot of time thinking on his strategy, as any great spinner would. Very sad to know that Rohit had no room for this.
In fact the team selection could have been better in other ways too. We needed Ashwin and one more all-rounder too and a different wicketkeeper batsman. No attention was given to the many talented young cricketers who have been making their presence felt with great performances in domestic cricket.
However without doubt it was the exclusion of Ashwin which was the biggest self-inflicted wound on India’s chances in the match. This decision was highly unjust not just to Ashwin but also to cricket lovers who were deprived of the chance of watching the great spinner giving his best at the world championship match.
Ashwin has earlier suffered similar injustice when he was excluded from playing from four tests at a stretch during a recent tour of England. At that time former Engand captain Michael Vaughan had called this the the biggest non-selection of the series while Mark Waugh had wondered if the Indian think-tank has any clue.
With all the data analysis readily available, one wonders why Indian skippers have not been put it to proper use. Where is the problem? In fact any data analysis would reveal very clearly that Ashwin had a much higher justification for selection compared to Rohit Sharma himself in the much-awaited championship match.
In addition to his very impressive top rankings, Ashwin has been a very determined fighter in difficult conditions. His grit was well in evidence in India’s recent highly inspired tour of Australia when in poor health he put up a match-changing performance. He puts to good use his analytical abilities to make improvements where needed. He put in a lot of effort to improve his batting as well and the results have been evident as he has been making important contributions coming in at number 8, a strength for any team. In fact if any unbiased selection for captaincy of Indian team is made, Ravichandaran Ashwin would be one of the strong contenders.
Is arrogance a reason for such unjust, difficult-to-explain reasons? As arrogance increases, there is less transparency and reason. In such conditions team spirit suffers. The joy which cricket brings to so many people is eroded when there is a strong sense of injustice and bias in important decisions.
One hopes that there would be more reason and less arrogance in Indian cricket.
The writer is a senior journalist and author



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