The Indian team management's decision to keep out off-spinner R Ashwin from the playing eleven in the ongoing Test series against England has been a hot topic for discussion. It was widely believed that Ravindra Jadeja will make way for Ashwin in the fourth Test which began at The Oval on Thursday. However, Virat Kohli preferred Jadeja over Ashwin for the fourth successive Test in the series.
Why is Kohli not keen on playing Ashwin ahead of Jadeja? Well, the Indian captain feels Jadeja brings more value to the team with his all-round abilities, especially batting and fielding. There is no doubt that Ashwin is a better spinner as compared to Jadeja in alien conditions.
However, the Indian think tank believes that Ashwin is not a potent threat on the seamer-friendly tracks in England. This is the third tour of England for both Ashwin and Jadeja. Ashwin has 17 wickets from seven Tests in England, while Jadeja has 19 wickets from nine Tests prior to the ongoing Oval Test. The two had played together in the World Test Championship final at Southampton against New Zealand in June without much success.
Aswin is yet to score a Test fifty in England, while Jadeja has three half-centuries to his credit, including a match-turning 68 in the 2014 Lord's Test. There is no comparison between the two as far as fielding is concerned with jadeja being one of the best in the business.
It is common knowledge that the seamers have to do the bulk of the job in England and the role of a spinner is limited unless it is a dry surface.
Kohli said at the toss on Thursday that he picked Jadeja since the left-arm spinner could use the rough against the four left-handers, one being No. 11 James Anderson, in the England line-up. But the fact remains that Jadeja has been persisted with to bolster the Indian batting.
The move to send in Jadeja at No. 5 in the first session was also a statement that the captain rates the southpaw highly. The ploy did not work as Chris Woakes dismissed Jadeja for 10.
Jadeja's promotion was also an indicator that the Indian camp is worried about the poor run of form of vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and the mercurial Rishabh Pant. Despite the vital 61 in the second innings of the Lord's Test, Rahane looks low on confidence, while Pant has been woefully out of form. To make matters worse for India, Cheteshwar Pujara too is going through a lean patch.
The more sensible option for India is to drop a seamer and play an extra batsman. The combination of six batsmen plus Pant and a bowling attack consisting of three seamers and a spinner could be the way forward in the final Test at Old Trafford next week. But that remains to be seen knowing Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri's obsession with the five-bowler theory, which is hurting the balance of the team big time.