After being “rested” from the ODI series against Sri Lanka, India's front line spinners - Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja - were again left even as seamers Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav, who too had been rested from the Lanka ODI series, returned to the 16-member squad for the first three games of the five-match ODI series against Australia. The series will begin on September 17 in Chennai.
Ashwin, currently playing county cricket in England, has two more games left in his contract for Worcestershire, and the selectors thought it was prudent to allow him to gain more county exposure ahead of India's five-Test tour of England next summer. The only change in the Virat Kohli-led squad was the omission of pacer Shardul Thakur at the expense of Yadav and Shami, who have been recalled after a break. Thakur has been picked for the India A series for New Zealand, but, following his impressive debut in Lanka, should be able to stage a return later against the Aussies.
Justifying the omission of Ashwin and Jadeja, chief selector MSK Prasad said that young spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel have been given an extended run due to their impressive showing in Sri Lanka. In four ODIs there, Chahal took five wickets in four games at an economical rate of 4.70, while Patel scalped six and was even more miserly at 3.85 runs per over.
“The team for the three ODIs against Australia has been selected in line with the rotation policy of the BCCI and accordingly Ashwin and Jadeja have been rested. The team's performance during the Sri Lanka tour was outstanding and players like Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal, who performed very well are being given an extended run and this will in turn supplement our approach, to build strong reserve strength, as we prepare for forthcoming tours,” Prasad said.
Though the selectors refuse to admit it, it does appear that both Ashwin and Jadeja seem to be paying the price for a below-par showing in the ICC Champions Trophy in England. Ashwin managed merely one wicket in three games, while Jadeja scalped four wickets in five games. Both were particularly disappointing in the final against Pakistan at The Oval - giving away 137 runs in 18 overs without taking a wicket.
“Anyone can have a bad game or series. Both Ashwin and Jadeja are class performers, but they've been rested as the selectors want to test the likes of Chahal, Patel and Kuldeep Yadav against a strong team like Australia, so that we've options when we tour abroad from early next year,” justified a source close to developments. Surprisingly, in the last ODI that he played in, Ashwin had figures of 3-28 against the West Indies in the third game, which India won by 93 runs.