India experienced a disappointing performance on the first day of the ICC World Test Championship 2023 final, with Australia establishing a dominant position at 327/3. Steve Smith and Travis Head remained unbeaten at the crease with scores of 95* and 146* respectively.
The team’s lackluster performance prompted discussions regarding the team management’s decision to drop Ravichandran Ashwin and replace him with Shardul Thakur.
Indian bowling coach, Paras Mhambrey, acknowledged the difficulty of the decision to exclude the accomplished off-spinner but explained that the morning conditions influenced the choice. Mhambrey also pointed out the success of India’s previous combination, where the pacers performed admirably.
“It’s always a challenging call to exclude a bowler of Ashwin’s caliber. However, considering the conditions in the morning, we believed that having an additional seamer would prove advantageous. Moreover, this approach has yielded positive results in our previous matches. If we look back at the last Test match, we opted for a four-seamer strategy, which worked out really well,” Mhambrey stated, as reported by Hindustan Times.
Mhambrey emphasized that every decision made is in the best interest of the team while acknowledging Ashwin’s world-class abilities. He expressed confidence in the Indian seamers, expecting them to perform well in the upcoming sessions.
Additionally, he stressed the importance of the batsmen providing a strong start and gradually closing the gap on Australia’s total when India takes their turn to bat.
“When determining the playing combination, we engage in discussions. Undoubtedly, Ashwin is a world-class bowler, and there is no doubt about it. However, during these conversations, the player also understands that decisions are made with the team’s benefit in mind,” he added.
It is worth mentioning that Ravichandran Ashwin has not featured in the playing XI for six consecutive Tests in England. The off-spinner’s last appearance in a Test match in England was during the World Test Championship final in 2021, where he took two wickets for 28 runs and two wickets for 17 runs in the respective innings. However, since that match, Ashwin has been replaced by seam all-rounder Shardul Thakur or Ishant Sharma.
The decision to exclude the exceptional spinner has faced criticism from former cricketers Ricky Ponting and Sunil Gavaskar. They believe that there will be opportunities for spinners on Day 4 and 5 of the Test, and therefore, Ashwin’s absence might be a missed opportunity for the team.