'With Ashwin in 15, Kuldeep isn't....': Shastri, Harbhajan's intriguing WC idea | Crickit
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'With Ashwin in the 15, Kuldeep isn't....': Shastri, Harbhajan's intriguing IND World Cup XI notion on Jadeja's partner

Oct 03, 2023 11:34 AM IST

Ravi Shastri and Harbhajan Singh has sparked a brand new and rather intriguing debate pertaining to spin combination for the World Cup playing XI

Heading into the ODI World Cup, India have had largely only one selection headache, as being made from the various remarks made by veterans, experts and in talk shows - the middle-order line-up. With Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav ticking the final boxes for the 50-over event at home, the debate pertain to who between the two along with Ishan Kishan and KL Rahul should take that No. 4 and 5 spot. But the legends in Ravi Shastri and Harbhajan Singh has sparked a brand new and rather intriguing debate pertaining to spin combination for the World Cup playing XI as veteran bowler Ravichandran Ashwin made a late into into the squad.

Ravi Shastri and Harbhajan Singh has sparked a fresh World Cup debate
Ravi Shastri and Harbhajan Singh has sparked a fresh World Cup debate

The question that led to a rather refreshing discussion on the possible India line-up for the tournament wasn't at all a direct one, but rather concentrated on whether finger-spinners have lost their value in white-ball cricket.

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Speaking to ESPNCricinfo, Harbhajan, former India off-spinner, argued that it eventually depends on the skill level of a bowler and that the Indian management should not only look to play Ashwin, who replaced an injured Axar Patel in the World Cup squad last week, when an opposition has more left-handed batting options. It was then that he mentioned that the all-rounder would rather be his top or the second pick for the bowling option for India in the playing XI.

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“People are realising that skill is more important. It's not like an off-spinner shouldn't bowl to right-handers. Even I mentioned that Ashwin should play if the opposition has more left-handers, but that is what the management thinks. But if I was captain of the team or part of management, I would pick my five best bowlers and Ashwin would be first or second on that list,” he said.

Startled at the response, the direct question was eventually posed as the 2011 World Cup-winning player revealed his bowling line-up. He said: If I had to pick today, it would be Bumrah, Shami, Siraj, Jadeja, Ashwin."

Up until now, there Kuldeep's spot was never up for a debate given his stellar form since October last year. Having appeared in 21 matches during the period, the most by a bowler in ODIs, Kuldeep picked 40 wickets (second most) at just 17.20 with a five-wicket haul.

However, Harbhajan backed Ashwin, who only made his ODI comeback after 20 months of absence last week in the series against Australia, owing to his ability to bat.

‘Kuldeep is not a certainty’

Shastri, former India head coach, completely agreed with it as he reiterated that India have to be flexible with their playing XI and added that Ashwin's inclusion in the squad has added to the debate surrounding India's playing XI.

“You have to be flexible. I will go one step ahead and watch the oppositions and think how they will play whom. And now that Ashwin is in the 15, it makes a challenge for the XI all the time. Kuldeep is not a certainty, unless he comes in and starts off brilliantly. Yes there is no question about Kuldeep's performance... he has been bowling at his best after a long time. But on a certain day and on a certain track...if the pitch is dry, you would want only two fast bowlers because there is Hardik Pandya as well,” he said.

The former India all-rounder however urged Ashwin to play as an attacking spin option and look to pick those wickets in the middle overs.

“What you don't want to see from Ashwin is the defensive bowling when he gets the opportunity. You want him to show his skills and get those wickets in the middle overs,” he added.

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