India’s premier spinner R. Ashwin could be included in the playing XI for the fourth Test if the pitch at The Oval assists spin and he is in the team management’s “scheme of things,” bowling coach Bharat Arun said at a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
Ashwin hasn’t played a single game in the series so far, despite being in good form with the ball. In the last 12 months, he has taken 48 wickets in eight Tests, including 32 wickets in four Tests against England in India earlier this year. In the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, he took 4 for 45 across two innings, at 17.95.
“Ashwin, no doubt, is one of the best bowlers that we have. It is unfortunate that he has not played so far. But if there is an opportunity and we feel he’s in the scheme of things, [Ashwin and Jadeja] would definitely be bowling in tandem,” Arun said.
The final decision on the playing XI will be taken on Thursday morning after the team has a look at the pitch, Arun said.
“The history at The Oval says it aids spin. But you also know how the Englishmen are wary of Ashwin’s abilities and what he could do, if there’s any little assistance from the track. The most realistic option would be to look at the track tomorrow morning – because anything can happen from now to tomorrow – so we will look at the track tomorrow morning and decide.”
Arun was confident of a better performance from the Indian team in the fourth and fifth Tests, after its innings defeat at Headingley.
“We have done it in the past. We have been bowled out for 36 and bounced back. Even in India, we suffered a big defeat in the first Test match against England. We have our ways to bounce back, and we have done it in the past. We can take some confidence from what we have done in the past. I’m sure you will see a much more spirited performance in the coming Test matches,” he said.
Arun felt it wouldn’t be fair to criticise India’s bowlers for their performance at Headingley – they allowed England to score 432 in the first innings – since defending 78 was a challenging task.
“It is the biggest challenge for bowlers to defend low scores. They have done it in the past. I don’t think it is fair to pull up the bowlers if they’ve not done it on one occasion. And you’ve got to realise that we’re playing a closely-fought international series, and that, too, in their home conditions. There are bound to be a few losses, which we know, which we understand. We have to accept it, take the positives from this, and then move on,” he said.
And how does India plan to contain Joe Root, who has already struck three centuries in three Tests? “We’ve given him pretty fast starts. Obviously, we look deep into those areas, and we’ll look to stem those,” replied Arun.
To boost India’s bowling stocks in the series, seamer Prasidh Krishna was added to the India squad on Wednesday. Arun clarified that the move to include him had been made keeping in mind the workload of India’s seamers in the series, and that it didn’t imply his imminent selection in the playing XI.
“He has been included in the team mainly due to workload management issues. There is nothing more to it. Ishant [Sharma]’s form in the last game was a bit of a concern, but I think we have things sorted out. But Prasidh Krishna is just a precautionary inclusion,” he said.
Arun also said Ravindra Jadeja being sent to the hospital at Yorkshire was just a precautionary measure, and that he was fully fit to take the field on Thursday. “It was a very normal and precautionary scan that he went through. All he had to do was to wear the hospital dress and he took a picture of that. And that created a bigger scam than that. So, there’s nothing to it and Jadeja is absolutely fit.”