India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has strongly defended the team management’s decision to send Axar Patel ahead of Suyrakumar Yadav in the third ODI of the series against Australia in Chennai on Friday. The move did not pay off, but Ashwin reckons that if Axar could have negated the Australian spinners, the result of the match would have been different.
Set 270 for victory, India were going at a comfortable pace when they lost the wicket of KL Rahul. Much to everyone’s surprise, Axar joined Virat Kohli in the middle instead of Suryakumar.
Also read - ‘Did Not Want Right-handers to Get Stuck’: Rohit Sharma Explains Reason for Change in Batting Order After Chennai Defeat
Axar, however, could last just four balls and was run out after scoring two runs. Suryakumar, who had bagged two ducks in two matches before, was held back even after that and Hardik Pandya came in at No 6. Soon Kohli departed and then Suryakumar saw his stumps disturbed even before scoring a run and India’s chase went awry. The hosts fell short by 21 runs, handing Australia the series. Adam Zampa was the pick of the Australian bowlers with 4/45 and was given great support by fellow spinner Ashton Agar (2/41).
“Why did they promote Axar? If they promoted Axar and he negated Zampa and Agar by taking them for 35 or 50 runs in 10 overs then the game was in India’s bag. So the intent was right but the run-out happened. The outcome wasn’t right," Ashwin said on his YouTube channel.
Ashwin scoffed at the criticism being levelled at the Indian management for changing the batting order. He pointed towards similar changes made by Australia as well which got forgotten in the wake of Australia’s win.
“Surya came down the order, Axar was promoted and KL Rahul batted at No.4, that was the talking point of the game. Please look at Australia’s batting order consistently. When Maxwell returns that’s how they will use him as well. Because they are players who can create impact," he said.
Also read - ‘It Can Happen To Anyone’: Rohit Sharma Backs Suryakumar Yadav Despite Hattrick of Ducks
“Suryakumar Yadav is also one such player. He plays spin really well. Australia won that’s why it didn’t become a talking point but Marnus Labuschagne who bats at No.4 had to bat at No.5 because of David Warner. If they had lost the game, these questions would have been asked. It’s decided based on the situation of the game, it’s a hunch call," Ashwin added.
The veteran spinner rued that the feedback from the fans and even the experts are “harsh" and there is “almost a compulsion that India should always win".
“There is an opinion that India is the strongest team. We are a strong team, no doubt about that but somewhere down the line, we assume ourselves to be an invincible cricketing nation. So the feedback coming from the public sometimes can be harsh. Even experts are very harsh with their criticisms these days," Ashwin said.
Indian captain Rohit Sharma said after the loss at Chennai that since the ball was turning with a leg-spinner (Zampa) and left-arm spinner (Agar) operating, the management didn’t want to see the right-handed batsmen getting stuck and so had sent Axar with the mandate to take on the spinners.
“KL Rahul and Virat Kohli were batting. They were operating against a leggie and a left-arm spinner. Surya was slotted to actually go at 5. But, we thought that the ball was taking some turn and we did not want the right-handers to get stuck. Which is why we wanted a left-hander and Axar, being in the form he is, we wanted to just ask him to go in and bat the way he does and take the spinners on", Rohit said.
Axar had been in sublime batting form lately, hitting three half-centuries in the recently-concluded Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia.
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