R. Ashwin’s Twitter post on Thursday morning read like a redemption song. “It was good to be back playing T20s for India in India with a good crowd cheering on,” he tweeted.
Indeed, Ashwin’s return to the T20I fold has been a long time coming. Under Virat Kohli, the off-spinner was often overlooked, with the likes of Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, Krunal Pandya and Varun Chakravarthy getting the nod in the playing eleven. Most
recently, Ashwin was surprisingly overlooked for the crucial Pakistan and New Zealand outings in the ICC T20 World Cup, and was given a chance only against the minnows.
With a skillful two for 23 spell against New Zealand in the first T20I at Jaipur on Thursday, Ashwin proved that he can thrive in the shortest format. The Tamil Nadu cricketer broke a dangerous 109-run partnership between Martin Guptill and Mark Chapman, defeating Chapman
with a classical flighted delivery. In the same over, he had Glenn Phillips all at sea with his variations, before taking him out with a ball which straightened.
The second outing at JSCA International Stadium Complex here on Friday will serve as another chance for Ashwin to stake his claim as the nation’s best T20I spinner.
Ashwin is pleased to play under new head coach Rahul Dravid, telling the host broadcaster, “He (Dravid) won’t leave much to chance, and he’ll be all about preparation and process, so that we can bring the happiness back into the Indian dressing room.”
Suryakumar Yadav is another player who did his reputation no harm. After a disappointing run in the World Cup, Suryakumar returned to the party with a match-winning 40-ball 62. Suryakumar may be comfortable in the number three spot, but the Mumbaikar insisted that he is willing to bat in any position to help the team. “I have batted from the opening spot all the way to five-drop. I’m happy to bat in any position. I’ve been playing at number three for the last three years for my franchise (Mumbai Indians). I like to express myself in matches the way I do in nets. I’ve been playing the same shots for the last two-three years. I enjoy playing in this format,” the ever-confident Suryakumar said after his Man-of-the-match performance on Wednesday.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar also has a point to prove. The pacer went wicketless in India’s opening World Cup game, against Pakistan, and was replaced by Shardul Thakur.
At Jaipur, Bhuvneshwar served a timely reminder of what he brings to the table. He moved the new cherry around corners, and foxed the batters with slower deliveries in the death.
There is hope yet for comeback stories under this Rohit Sharma-Rahul Dravid combine.
India: Rohit Sharma (Captain), K.L. Rahul (Vice-Captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Venkatesh Iyer, Yuzvendra Chahal, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Avesh Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Siraj
New Zealand: Tim Southee (captain), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Adam Milne, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham,
(The match starts at 7 p.m.)