Ravichandran Ashwin is in doubt for the Sydney Test against Australia after failing to recover from the left side strain which he sustained in the Adelaide Test. Although he was named in the 13-man squad for the final Test, India cricket team skipper Virat Kohli said his inclusion in the playing XI is ‘in doubt’ and admitted that all is not well with the Tamil Nadu offspinner. The Indian cricket team are currently leading the series 2-1 following their 137-run win in the Melbourne Test and are aiming to become the first Asian side ever to win a Test series Down Under. Speaking in the pre-match press conference ahead of the final Test, Kohli said the physio and trainer have spoken to him as to what is required.
“It's unfortunate that Ashwin has had two niggles quite similar in the last couple of away tours (England and now Australia). He, more than anyone else, will be focused to correct this. The physio and the trainer have spoken to him in terms of what's required (from him) in order to get over that injury. He is very important for sure. In Test cricket, he is a vital part of this team and we want him to be 100 per cent fit and for a longer period so that he can contribute to us more in the Test format,” Kohli said.
Ashwin had sustained a left-side strain during the England series and he was less effective in the Southampton Test which India lost by 60 runs to lose the series as well. The offspinner was ruled out of The Oval Test and in Adelaide, he bowled 86 overs and did not allow Australia to score freely as India secured a 31-run win. However, Ashwin was ruled out of the Perth Test and has failed to make a recovery since.
“He (Ashwin) is very disappointed with the fact that he has not been able to recover in time, but the things have been laid out to him (as to) what needs to be done to get back to full fitness. Honestly, you can't predict an injury. When it happens, you just manage and doing what you can to get over that injury,” Ashwin said.
Vihari’s offspin a boost
In Ashwin’s absence, the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Hanuma Vihari have chipped in well. In Perth, Vihari provided the breakthrough with his handy offspin while Jadeja was the star in the Melbourne Test. Kohli said Vihari’s offbreaks have given the Indian cricket team a real comfort zone in the absence of Ashwin.
“Ashwin's absence does make you alter plans a little bit throughout the course of a series. But the fact that Hanuma Vihari has bowled beautifully whenever we have given him the ball makes us feel absolutely calm about Ashwin not being able to play. But, if you see the way Vihari has bowled he has looked like picking up a wicket whenever he comes to bowl. He's pitching the ball in the right areas so we are looking at him as a solid bowling option right now. Especially in this Test because he has pace on the ball, he puts in the effort, he's economical and that's all you need from a guy who is coming in to bowl 10-15 overs in a day,” Kohli said.
Kohli revealed that he had been plagued by back injuries ever since he entered the Indian cricket team in 2011 but added that certain routines have ensured he remained on top of his fitness in all three formats. During the Melbourne Test, he had suffered a back injury but he played through the Test match without witnessing any kind of discomfort.
“I have been able to manage it because of the physical effort I have put in in the last few years. he physical part has definitely helped me massively in the last three years. I feel like I can switch formats easily. And I can be at the top of my energy levels or intensity levels that is required to play international cricket because I work really hard no my fitness. There are many factors involved: the diet, the sleep patterns and all these sort of things are very crucial,” Kohli said.
India lead the four-match series 2-1 and a win or draw in Sydney will help them create history.