Ravichandran Ashwin has expressed that he would love to see Washington Sundar go back and open the batting for Tamil Nadu in red-ball cricket and asserted that such a move would make logical sense. Sundar, who last played domestic red-ball cricket in 2017, has been batting at #8 for India.
India’s biggest find across the last two Test series has been Washington Sundar, but it has come with a twist. The all-rounder, known for his exploits with the ball in white-ball cricket, has turned out to be an extremely reliable, gun batsman down the order, making heads turn with his stroke-making ability. After striking a match-winning 62 at the Gabba, Sundar pummelled an unbeaten 85 in the first Test in Chennai versus England and, earlier today, posted his highest score in Test cricket as he was left stranded on 96*.
Sundar has, astonishingly, not played any red-ball cricket for his state side Tamil Nadu in 4 years, but his exploits with the national side are inevitably set to make him a regular feature in the TN side in the near future. After starting as an opener, Sundar dropped down the order for TN, too, but now, with him having piled on the runs in national colours, there is a case for the 21-year-old to bat higher up the order once again for his state side.
Ravichandran Ashwin, speaking in the press conference post the series, echoed the same sentiments, and expressed that it would make logical sense for ‘semma batsman Washi’ to start opening the batting for Tamil Nadu again.
“Look I don’t have the authority to say where Washi should bat but ideally, when you have an upcoming talent like him, it makes logical sense for him to bat No.3 or No.4 when he goes back to this state team. In fact, Washi is an opening bat. I think he should go back to first-class cricket and start opening the batting,” Ashwin said in the press conference post the day.
“Like I said before, Washi is an amazing batsman. There is absolutely no doubt about that. But in people’s eyes, they don’t know about it. But I think batting up the order (in domestic cricket) and scoring runs will be more useful for him. I feel that’s what he needs to be doing.”
Such is the cut-throat competition in this Indian side, though, that even someone like a Sundar, despite playing a series-defining knock, could see himself sit out the next few games - if not series - once Ravindra Jadeja comes back. Axar Patel and Mohammed Siraj are also two other star players who could see themselves be dropped despite playing key roles and Ashwin, himself, despite winning the Man of the Series award versus England, is not guaranteed to be a sure-shot starter for the WTC Final against New Zealand.
The competition for spots is currently the strongest it has ever been, and Ashwin conceded that India currently might be in an 2000s Australia-esque situation, where World Class players might find themselves warming the bench owing to the abundance of talent in the country.
“I’m sure it’s very hard for the person who is going through that phase. As a cricketer, you know in the Indian team there are a lot of players who could take your place. There are good talents out there. You can’t take anything for granted and have to keep slogging day in and day out.
“The dressing room atmosphere is open for excellence; for people to improve and get the best out of them. I can vouch for myself and I always want to put my best foot forward. Things can happen when there are so many talented players in the dressing room. In Australia Brad Hodge made a double hundred but didn’t play a lot. Probably Indian cricket finds itself in that place where you have a lot of good cricketers coming through.”
Ashwin, in three months’ time, will have the opportunity to do a World Cup + WTC double, but for many other cricketers in the Indian side, the WTC Final versus New Zealand will be the biggest match of their career. Ashwin insisted that the WTC Final is as big a game as it comes and claimed that he is pleased that several of his teammates will get to feature in a game equivalent to a World Cup final.
“I think it is the result of the kind of work we’ve put in, in the last 10 years now. For a lot of players in the dressing room, it means a lot. Some of them have not even played in a cricket World Cup. So it will mean like a cricket World Cup for most of them. I’m so very happy for someone like Ishant Sharma who got selected in the 2015 World Cup but couldn’t play because of injury. For someone like him, to get to the WTC Final would mean the world.”