IND vs SA | Wouldn’t be surprised if Ravichandran Ashwin doesn’t play in South Africa Tests, says Steve Harmison

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Ravichandran Ashwin was benched for each of the four Tests in England earlier this year

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IND vs SA | Wouldn’t be surprised if Ravichandran Ashwin doesn’t play in South Africa Tests, says Steve Harmison

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SportsCafe Desk

12/07/2021

Steve Harmison says that he’s uncertain whether Ravichandran Ashwin will feature in India’s XI against South Africa, given the unpredictability in Virat Kohli’s team selections. He also called for Mayank Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer’s inclusion ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane.

Ravichandran Ashwin won his ninth Player of the Series award in Tests after his brilliance in the recently concluded series against New Zealand, which is level with former South Africa great Jacques Kallis and only behind Muttiah Muralitharan (11). The off-spinner bagged 14 wickets at 11.36 from two Tests, while also making useful contributions with the bat in the first Test in Kanpur.

However, despite his brilliance both home and away in recent years, Ashwin has been a doubtful starter in overseas Tests. He was benched in each of the four Tests in England earlier this year, despite his impressive showing at the World Test Championship final against New Zealand and 6/27 for Surrey against Somerset in the build-up to the series.

Former England quick Steve Harmison stated that he won’t be surprised if India opt to bench their third highest wicket-taker in Tests in their upcoming series against South Africa, beginning December 26 in Centurion.

"The problem I find in predicting this Indian side is there's logic and then there's Kohli's idea of what the team should be," Harmison said on his YouTube channel.

"Who on earth would have thought that Ashwin would have missed so much cricket against England? You can never know what Virat wants, what he is trying or his thinking process is.”

"You would think the 2 young guys in Iyer and Agarwal would be going to South Africa on the back of scoring 100s in this series, it wouldn't surprise me if Rahane and Pujara plays and wouldn't surprise me if Ashwin doesn't play."

Harmison stressed that India should go in with their in-form players, particularly Mayank Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer, as he slated the former to open with Rohit Sharma and marked KL Rahul as No.3. He sidelined the out-of-form experienced duo of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane from his starting XI. 

"If you're going to go to South Africa and survive against Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi, they need people in form,” he said. “And the ones who are in form are Shreyas Iyer and Mayank Agarwal. Rohit Sharma comes back in so I will pick him and Agarwal to open. KL Rahul fits that No. 3 spot. Then you've got Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ashwin, Shami, Siraj and Bumrah.

"That for me would be a formidable team going from India. There are runs in that team, there are definitely wickets in there on whatever surface you are going to play. And you reward people who are in a bit of form. Agarwal scored a 100 and fifty. Shreyas Iyer became the first player to score a 100 and fifty on debut. I think those 2 guys have got to play."

Harmison said that there’s a strong case to play both Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin in the team, given the former’s batting form in recent times.

"Jadeja is important for this team with Pant at No. 6 and 7,” Harmison said. “Even though Axar can bat and so can Ashwin. But Jadeja bats nicely at 7 and I still think there is room for one more spinner. The skill level for Ashwin is as good as any seam bowler would bowl on any seam-friendly wicket.

"But this guy is so skillful, so meticulous and can create so much pressure that even your fourth seamer cannot be as threatening as R Ashwin. And then you pick your three fast bowlers, which for me would be Shami, Bumrah and Siraj."

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