WTC 2023 Final : Why could Ashwin's exclusion cost India the match?

Ravichandran Ashwin is currently No. 1 bowler in Test Cricket and also India’s leading wicket-taker in the 2021-23 WTC cycle. Rohit Sharma led side dropped Ashwin from the playing XI in the WTC 2023 Final. His exclusion from the team may cost India the final as he is in best form in Test cricket and is an experienced player which would have helped the Indian team. His exclusion has opened a debate the moment Rohit announced the playing XI at the toss. Many senior players including Australian greats Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden have slammed India’s decision to drop premier off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for the WTC final against Australia.

In his absence, left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja is the only spinner in the playing XI and he went wicketless as India struggled to break the Australian partnership between Steve Smith and Travis Head. There wasn't much turn for Jadeja on the first day. Former Australian captain Ricky Pointing termed Ashwin’s exclusion a “mistake”. Australian side have a lot of left-hand batters in their batting line-up and Ashwin is the most successful bowler in Test cricket against the left-handers. He would have been best suited for India against those batters. 

There is no doubt that Ravichandran Ashwin is a champion bowler and dropping someone like him isn’t an easy decision to make. Indian bowling coach Paras Mhambrey defended the decision and said “ It’s always very difficult to drop a champion bowler like him. But I thought the conditions in the morning, having the additional seamer would definitely be beneficial” he stated in a press conference after the play of Day 1. 

Ashwin is the top-ranked Test bowler with 474 wickets in 92 matches including 32 five-wicket hauls. The stats clearly show why he is a no. 1 bowler in Test cricket and also has a good record with the bat. His years of experience in Test cricket would have been very important in this crucial match. Legendary Indian Batter Sunil Gavaskar was left shocked over Ashwin’s exclusion from an important match. Keeping a quality spinner like him out of the playing XI was not at all a right decision. There isn’t any off-spinner in the side and many former players of both the sides have expressed their disappointment in excluding him. This decision did not work as the Australian team is in an excellent position after Day 1 at stumps. India will hope that this bold step will not cost them the match. 

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