Ashwin Replaces Axar in India’s World Cup Squad
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Ashwin Replaces Axar in India’s World Cup Squad

Offspinner R Ashwin has replaced left-arm spinner Axar Patel in India’s final 15 for the 2023 World Cup*. ESPNcricinfo has learned that Axar, who left the Asia Cup with a quadriceps strain, needs at least three more weeks to recover fully.

Today is the deadline for teams to make changes – no questions asked – to their World Cup squads, as per the ICC’s regulations. From tomorrow, any further changes will need the consent of the World Cup’s technical committee.

This means Ashwin joins Virat Kohli as one of only two players in this squad who also featured in India’s 2011 World Cup winning run.

Ashwin’s inclusion has come as a surprise, with things changing quickly. He was not part of the 15-man squad announced by the BCCI in late August. At the time, India’s chief selector Ajit Agarkar pointed out that while Ashwin was one of the contenders, the selectors and the team management had opted for Axar, whom they felt provided batting depth. In the Asia Cup, when Axar got injured and returned to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru, the BCCI drafted Washington Sundar as his replacement.

Both Washington and Ashwin were included three-match ODI series against Australia that followed, which India won 2-1. That series was the first time Ashwin, 37, had played for India in ODIs in 18 months.

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He played the first two of those Australia games, taking 1 for 47 and 3 for 41, before being rested for the third ODI in Rajkot where Washington replaced him.

Rahul Dravid, India’s head coach, had said at a media briefing on Wednesday, after the third ODI, that “there were no changes” to the World Cup squad. Dravid said that Agarkar had been in touch with the NCA on Axar’s rehab. However, following the latest update on Axar, Ashwin has been slotted in, and Washington will fly to China on Friday to join India’s squad for the Asian Games.

Ashwin is the only specialist offspinner in India’s World Cup squad, and brings with him the experience of 115 ODIs (155 wickets, economy rate 4.94). He had made his ODI debut a year before the 2011 World Cup, and was part of India’s successful campaign with four wickets in two games. He also played the 2015 World Cup in Australia, where he took 13 wickets in eight matches. He was not part of India’s 2019 World Cup squad in England.

India captain Rohit Sharma had said on the eve of the third ODI against Australia that all this experience worked in Ashwin’s favour. “Ashwin has got the class, he’s got experience of playing the sport and handling the pressure. It’s just that he hasn’t played ODIs [for] a year or so. But you cannot take away the class and the experience that the individual has over the years, and in the last couple of games [against Australia], we saw how well he bowled. He’s got a lot of variations up his sleeves.”

Source : ESPN Cricinfo