September 2023 has proven to be an immensely satisfying month for Rahul Dravid since taking over as the head coach of the Indian men’s cricket team. With a relatively injury-free squad at his disposal and a recent triumph in the Asia Cup, Dravid’s tenure has seen several stars aligning favourably for Team India.
Key players, such as Jasprit Bumrah, KL Rahul, and Shreyas Iyer, have returned to peak form. Additionally, the decision to back Suryakumar Yadav as a lower-order finisher has yielded dividends, with the dynamic batsman consistently notching up fifties in the recent ODI series against Australia.
Mohammad Shami’s fiery pace has bolstered the bowling attack, and India now holds the number one status across formats, setting the stage for the marquee World Cup tournament.
A Surprise Return: Ravichandran Ashwin
One of the intriguing narratives of the recent ODI series against Australia has been the unexpected return of Ravichandran Ashwin. This surprising recall followed Axar Patel‘s unfortunate injury during the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup.
Dravid, however, clarified that Ashwin’s return wasn’t a trial for a World Cup spot but rather an opportunity for the seasoned spinner to gain match practice in the ODI format. Dravid commented, “I won’t say that it’s a trial for him or anything like that. We know his quality. But it’s an opportunity for him to play games in the format.”
Ravichandran Ashwin, aged 37, displayed a rejuvenated spirit as he returned to ODI cricket. His initial spell in Mohali during the ODI series against Australia was challenging, with Ashwin struggling to find the right lengths against David Warner and Steve Smith.
However, Ashwin adapted, returning to his traditional skill set and finishing his spell with a vital wicket, conceding 47 runs in 10 overs. The true test came in Indore, where India posted its highest-ever ODI total of 399/5 against Australia. On a batting paradise, Ashwin showcased his craft.
Ashwin’s Bag of Tricks
Ashwin’s bowling arsenal included a new variation that troubled the Australian batters. The white Kookaburra, which had soared to all corners of the ground during India’s innings, began to dip, drift, and spin sharply as it left Ashwin’s hand.
David Warner, who has fallen to Ashwin 14 times in international cricket, attempted unconventional tactics, including switching to a right-handed stance. Ashwin adapted swiftly, presenting different challenges to the batters.
One of Ashwin’s secret weapons in his spin arsenal is the “reverse carrom ball.” This delivery, developed since 2019, has the ability to deceive batters with its unpredictability. By going under the seam, Ashwin can create drift, making it a potent weapon against right-handed batters.
Ashwin’s impressive performance on a challenging pitch against a competitive Australian lineup presents a selection conundrum for India. With the World Cup squad submission deadline approaching, Ashwin’s resurgence offers the selectors and team management an intriguing option.
If Axar Patel’s injury persists, Ashwin might emerge from the shadows and find himself included in the final 15 for the World Cup. Facing Australia in the World Cup opener in Chennai, Ashwin could have another chance to showcase his skills and spin magic.