India cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar expressed his discontent with captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid after the exclusion of top-ranked Test bowler Ravichandran Ashwin from the India XI in the World Test Championship final against Australia at The Oval. Gavaskar’s disappointment reflects the recurring pattern of Ashwin being left out despite his impressive statistics, and it is not the first time Gavaskar has shown his support for the bowler.
During the 2021 series in Australia, Gavaskar explained the “horses for courses” rule that seems to exclusively apply to bowlers. In his column for Sportstar, Gavaskar used Ashwin as an example to highlight the unjust practice of dropping a bowler if they don’t meet their own standards, while batsmen often receive more leniency.
Sunil Gavaskar wrote, “For far too long Ashwin has suffered not for his bowling ability of which only the churlish will have doubts, but for his forthrightness and speaking his mind at meetings where most others just nod even if they don’t agree. If Ashwin doesn’t take heaps of wickets in one game, he is invariably sidelined for the next one. That does not happen to established batsmen though. That’s Indian cricket. Different rules for different people. If you don’t believe me ask Ravi Ashwin and T. Natarajan.”
In response to Gavaskar’s comments and his recent exclusion from the World Test Championship final, Ashwin shared his thoughts with Sportstar. When asked if Gavaskar was right about the rule, Ashwin reminisced about a significant moment involving his idol, Sachin Tendulkar. He recalled watching an India-Sri Lanka game where Tendulkar consistently scored runs while the Indian bowlers struggled. This experience motivated Ashwin to become a better bowler, leading him to embrace off-spin bowling.
R Ashwin revealed, “However, tomorrow when I hang up my boots, the first thing I will regret is having been such a fine batter, I should have never become a bowler. This is something, a perception I have constantly tried to fight but there are different yardsticks for bowlers and batters. And there are different ways of treatment. I understand, for the batter, it is a one-ball game and they require the opportunity.”
Despite having over 400 wickets in Test cricket, Ashwin admitted that he was aware he would receive fewer opportunities to prove his worth in the Indian team. Despite the perceived unfair treatment, he has accepted this reality.
R Ashwin explained, “Some people will get 10 matches, some people will get 15, some people will get 20. The day I wore the Indian colours I knew I will get only two. So I was prepared for it. It’s not that it is some unfair treatment meted upon me. The only reason for my improvement or where I stand in how I play my cricket right now is that I have accepted that I will get only two Test matches. I don’t want to go back home and say ‘Boss, he got 15 and I got two’. I don’t want to do that because all I can control is who I am and what I can do.”
R Ashwin’s reflections shed light on the challenges faced by bowlers and the need for a fairer approach in team selection and treatment.