Ashwin last played an ODI more than 18 months ago, and his selection is a chance for the team management to have him ready, along with Washington, should they need a replacement for Axar Patel, who has a left quadriceps strain that ruled him out of the Asia Cup final. Ashwin has been training at the NCA over the past week along with spin consultant Sairaj Bahutule, even as the national team was away at the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka.
Rohit elaborated on the Ashwin selection a bit more when asked if the offspinner’s lack of match-time in the format could be a possible hindrance.
“With guys like Ashwin, game-time and time on the ground is not so much of a concern,” he said. “Which is why we thought if he is an option for us, we need to get him in. With the kind of experience he has, for guys like him, it’s all in the head more than the body. I thought getting him in could give is a chance to understand where he is at, how his body is and stuff like that.
“It’s not like he has not been playing cricket for the last year or so. Yes, he hasn’t played in this [ODI] format, but he played Test cricket recently in the West Indies, and if I’m not wrong, in the TNPL as well. Of course, there’s no comparison but he has had some cricket there. The games against Australia will give us a chance to look at where he’s at.”
Explaining the team management’s rationale behind naming two different squads for a short ODI series, Agarkar stressed the importance of giving the senior players a “mental break” given the short turnaround between their victorious Asia Cup campaign and the first ODI.
“Luckily we got a fair amount of cricket at the Asia Cup,” Agarkar said. “If not, we would’ve looked at it some other way. More than physical, sometimes guys need a mental break, which isn’t a bad thing leading into a tournament like the World Cup.
“For the third game, everyone will be available. We will play our World Cup squad. This [squad for the first two ODIs] gives us a chance to give guys sitting outside a chance. It’s still a strong squad. Like I said, if we hadn’t got a lot of cricket at the Asia Cup, who knows, we may have thought differently.”
For first two ODIs: KL Rahul (capt), Ravindra Jadeja (vice-capt), Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Tilak Varma, Prasidh Krishna, R Ashwin, Washington Sundar
For third ODI: Rohit Sharma (capt), Hardik Pandya (vice-capt), Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Virat Kohli, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel (subject to fitness), R Ashwin, Washington Sundar