Team India’s decision of ignoring Ravichandran Ashwin from the playing XI for important Test matches has often led to detrimental outcomes. This strategic gamble of relying on a seam-heavy attack, with limited spin options, has been a topic of debate among cricket enthusiasts worldwide. As we examine three past instances where Ashwin’s absence impacted India’s performance, the ongoing World Test Championship (WTC) final against Australia serves as the latest and most crucial scenario to question the team’s decision-making.

Christchurch Test (2020): When Ashwin’s Magic Was Missed

India experienced a void in Ravichandran Ashwin’s wizardry during the Christchurch Test in 2020. In the first clash of the two-match Test series against New Zealand, Ashwin flaunted his bowling dexterity, seizing three pivotal wickets in the initial innings. Despite his commendable showing, India stumbled with the bat, resulting in a humiliating 10-wicket loss. 

However, the situation took a turn for the worse when Ashwin was left out for the second Test. As India’s batting woes continued, the absence of Ashwin’s exceptional spin-bowling skills to supplement the pace attack only exacerbated the team’s struggles. India was defeated in a disheartening seven-wicket loss, underscoring the missed opportunity to capitalize on Ashwin’s immense contributions.

Headingley (2021): The Absence That Haunted India

India’s tour to England in 2021 witnessed the team management’s mind-boggling decision to consistently sideline Ravichandran Ashwin from the four-match Test series. The consequences of this choice were most acutely felt during the third Test at Headingley. After a disastrous first-innings performance, where India was knocked out for a mere 78 runs, the need for a skilled spinner to apply pressure on the English batsmen became evident. Unfortunately, Ashwin’s expertise remained untouched yet again. With the match slipping away, India desperately yearned for his ability to crack the English batting lineup and curtail the scoring rate. 

Despite a valiant comeback in the second innings, India’s total of 278 proved insufficient, primarily due to the lower order’s breakdown. Ashwin’s absence in this pivotal phase robbed the team of a potentially game-changing contribution, ultimately leading to a devastating innings defeat.

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Birmingham(2022 – Rescheduled Test): Jadeja Over Ashwin, An III- Fated Choice 

Another instance that highlights the consequences of ignoring Ravichandran Ashwin from the playing XI occurred during the rescheduled Test against England in Birmingham in 2022. With Indian captain Rohit Sharma absent, the team led by Jasprit Bumrah opted for a familiar approach by selecting Ravindra Jadeja as the frontline spinner over Ashwin. 

The decision to rely heavily on the pace attack seemed reasonable initially, as India posted a competitive first-innings total of 416, thanks in part to scintillating centuries from Rishabh Pant and Jadeja himself. However, the bowlers struggled to contain England’s batting resurgence, allowing them to recover from a precarious position of 83/5 to a substantial total of 284, courtesy of Jonny Bairstow’s exceptional century. Notably, Jadeja’s involvement as the primary spinner remained limited, bowling just two overs in the first innings.

When India faced their second innings, the absence of Ashwin’s all-round skills became profoundly evident. As England chased down a challenging target of 378 with ease, their batsmen, particularly Joe Root and Bairstow, unleashed blistering hundreds, leaving India’s bowling attack looking pedestrian. Jadeja’s figures of 0/62 in 18.4 overs further underscored the team’s reliance on Ashwin’s ability to build pressure and take crucial wickets. 

World Test Championship Finale 2021-23

In a surprising move, Team India decided to exclude the formidable Ravichandran Ashwin from the playing XI for the highly anticipated World Test Championship (WTC) final against Australia at the Kennington Oval in London. Opting for a seam-heavy attack, India’s decision to rely on four pacers and a sole spinner in Ravindra Jadeja raised eyebrows among cricket enthusiasts worldwide. 

The exclusion of the top-ranked Test bowler was a strategic gamble aimed at exploiting the overcast conditions. However, as the match unfolded, it became evident that India had made a costly mistake, and Ashwin’s absence was sorely felt as Australia reached a mammoth total of 469.

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