India's squad for the upcoming three-match ODI series against Australia has raised eyebrows with Ravichandran Ashwin making a comeback to the side after a gap of 18 months.
With an eye on the impending World Cup and a desire to give the key players some much-needed break, the team has opted to rest key players like captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya, and Kuldeep Yadav for the first two ODIs. KL Rahul will step up to captain the side in Rohit's absence.
The third ODI will feature the same squad picked for the World Cup, along with the additions of Ashwin and Washington Sundar, who recently replaced injured Axar Patel in the Asia Cup final.
Ashwin, who hasn't participated in an ODI for over 18 months and has made just two appearances in the format in the last four years, has been given an opportunity as Axar struggles to get fit in time. The left-handed all-rounder is suffering from a left quadriceps strain and his participation against Australia will be subject to fitness.
The decision to have two different squads for this brief ODI series was explained by chief selector Ajit Agarkar, who emphasized the importance of affording senior players a “mental break” due to the quick turnaround between their successful Asia Cup campaign and the commencement of the first ODI.
Ashwin makes a comeback
While the national team was competing in the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, Ashwin dedicated himself to training at the NCA under the guidance of spin consultant Sairaj Bahutule.
Rohit voiced the reasoning behind Ashwin's selection, emphasizing that for experienced players like him, game-time and on-ground action aren't primary concerns.
“With guys like Ashwin, game-time and time on the ground is not so much of a concern,” he said. “This is why we thought if he is an option for us, we must 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.
Rohit also pointed out that Ashwin has been actively involved in white-ball cricket, having recently played in the Indian Premier League and the Tamil Nadu Premier League.
India's series against Australia is scheduled to commence on September 22, marking their final ODI assignment before the World Cup. The subsequent matches will be held on September 24 and September 27.
India's squad for Australia ODI series
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