Sunil Gavaskar has stated that he was left baffled by India's decision to leave R Ashwin out of the starting XI for the World Test Championship (WTC 2023) final against Australia at the Oval, which got underway on June 7.
Rohit Sharma had won the toss and decided to bowl first and though they picked the first three wickets for 76 runs, Travis Head with 146* and Steve Smith with 95* added 251 unbeaten runs for the fourth wicket as Australia ended day one on 327/3.
For India Mohammad Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur picked one wicket each.
With Head batting aggressively and Smith anchoring one end, India desperately missed a containing bowler which R Ashwin could’ve been. However, India opted to go with Thakur over Ashwin as weather was overcast when the game began.
The decision to leave R Ashwin out of XI was questioned by many as he is third on the list of the highest wicket-takers during the WTC 2021-23 cycle with 61 wickets to his name. The off-spinner is also the No.1 ranked bowler in the ICC Test rankings.
Ashwin was the joint Player of the Series in the recent Border-Gavaskar trophy as he picked up 25 wickets.
"Well, first and foremost, they could have R Ashwin in the team (what India could have done differently on Day 1?). It really baffles irrespective of what the conditions are, the No. 1 bowler in the ICC rankings is not able to find a place in the Indian playing XI. That is something that has baffled me all the time whenever it’s Ashwin. Even the last time when India were here (in England), they were just not picking him," said Gavaskar on Star Sports.
Gavaskar claimed that Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur entered the match underprepared as a result of their insufficient bowling time in the just finished IPL 2023. Both Yadav and Shardul had injury issues in IPL as well.
In his 14 overs of bowling, Umesh failed to pick up a wicket and gave 54 runs. Shardul bowled 18 overs and gave 75 runs while taking just one wicket.
"Sometimes, you get a little carried away. If you have 4 quality seam bowlers, it’s a different thing. Top-quality seam bowlers. Two of our seam bowlers were undercooked. One is Umesh Yadav, who did not play in the last few matches for KKR and Shardul Thakur. Both of them who hadn’t bowled a lot. On the other hand, you had two bowlers who played every single game for their franchises. They might have been little overcooked despite it being a 4-over spell," said Gavaskar.
Gavaskar also said that with so many left-handers in the Australian batting lineup, India missed a trick by leaving Ashwin out.
"With so many left-handers in the Australian XI, an off-spinner should have been there. I think that’s where India missed a trick," said Gavaskar.