New Delhi: Former Indian head coach Ravi Shastri on Thursday said he has no regrets about picking Kuldeep Yadav over Ravichandran Ashwin in the 2019 Sydney Test as the chinaman bowler was performing well at the time, adding that he was happy if his statement made Tamil Nadu off-spinner improve his game in red-ball cricket.
Kuldeep was preferred over Ashwin in the 2019 Sydney Test and the left-arm spinner justified the faith shown by team management by picking up five wickets in Australia's first innings. After that game, the then coach Shastri publicly said that Kuldeep would be the first choice spinner in overseas Tests.
Meanwhile, Ashwin, in his recent interview with ESPNcricinfo, revealed that he felt "absolutely crushed" when Shastri labelled Kuldeep as India's No. 1 overseas spinner as the senior spinner at the time was already suffering from a slump in form.
"... I felt crushed. Absolutely crushed. We all talk about how important it is to enjoy your teammates' success. And I was happy for Kuldeep. I have not been able to get a five-for but he has a five-for in Australia. I know how big it is. Even when I have bowled well (at other times), I haven't ended up with a five-for. So, I am genuinely happy for him. And it's an extremely happy occasion, to win in Australia," Ashwin had said.
Now, responding to the veteran spinner's comment, Shastri on Thursday said he was 'glad' that his remarks had hurt Ashwin and it had made him do better, after that omission.
"Ashwin did not play the Test in Sydney and Kuldeep bowled well. So it's fair I give Kuldeep a chance. If that hurt Ashwin, I am very happy. It made him do something different. My job is not to butter everyone's toast. My job is to state facts without agenda," said Shastri in a conversation with The Indian Express.
The noted commentator also mentioned that as a player he would have been motivated to prove his coach wrong and not 'go home crying'.
"If your coach challenges you, what will you do? Go home crying and say I won't come back. I as a player would take it as a challenge, to prove the coach wrong," said Shastri.
"The way Ashwin bowled in 2019 and the way he bowled in 2021 is chalk and cheese. About throwing Ashwin under the bus, he need not worry because I had told the bus driver to stop 2-3 feet short. The message to Ashwin in 2018 was that he had to be fit. He has worked on that and look how's bowling now. He's world-class," he added.
Notably, the situation has changed completely in the last two years as Kuldeep has lost his place in India's Test squad whereas Ashwin continues to be the leader of the spin attack.