BENGALURU: When India’s T20 World Cup squad was announced early September, the inclusion of Ravichandran Ashwin did come as a surprise to some. The off-spinner had not featured in the shorter format for the national team since 2017.
The selectors had primarily looked at the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar and others during the period.
Though he did not represent India for the last four years, taking 38 wickets in the IPL from 2018-20 was full proof of his wicket-taking ability in the T20s as well.
Despite being picked in the squad, he was ignored in the first two matches, against Pakistan and New Zealand with Varun Chakravarthy and Rahul Chahar given the nod.
However, the 35-year-old was finally given a chance to feature in the shorter format, against Afghanistan on Wednesday.
Considering his wicket-taking ability across all formats, it came as no surprise that the spinner bowled beautifully with perfect control over his variations.
In fact, his figures of 4-0-14-2 reflect what India, who defeated Afghanistan by 66 runs, might have been missing - his wily fox approach and experience -- in the first few games during the middle overs.
The Tamil Nadu spinner will be eager to carry that form into India’s next game, against Scotland at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday as well.
On paper, it may not look like a big match. But, after their painful losses in the first two games, against Pakistan and New Zealand, the remaining games assume even greater significance.
Not only do they need to beat Scotland, India will need to win handsomely to improve their net run rate. With New Zealand expected to beat Namibia on Friday, the Kiwis game against Afghanistan on Sunday will be crucial.
An Afghan win will make Virat Kohli and co dream about the semifinal berth as they will head into the last game against Namibia knowing fully well about the requirements to reach the next round.
“.....The discussion that we need to have is about how we are going to go about the couple of games we have left. Everyone is eager to go out on a high for the last two games. The rest of it is not in our control. It is fingers crossed. Cricket is a funny game and Afghanistan have played good cricket too. A lot of our hopes rest with them as well. We have fallen short of what we could achieve in the first two games so you can see where we are at the table...…that is T20 cricket, very quick, cannot really come back into a tournament like this when you have games like those,” said Ashwin.
So, India cannot think too far ahead, but just concentrate on elements, which they can control.
For now, it is the Scotland game.
However, it is imperative for the Indian players to adopt a fearless approach against Scotland and keep their hopes, if any, of moving into the knockout stages of the competition.
Zampa Stars as Australia keep SF hopes Alive
DUBAI: Leg-spinner Adam Zampa starred with a five-wicket haul as Australia crushed Bangladesh by eight wickets to take their second spot in Group 1 and keep their semifinals hopes alive in the T20 World Cup here on Thursday. Bangladesh were all out for 73 runs, and Australia reached the target in the seventh over.
Brief scores: Bangladesh 73/10 in 20 ovs (Zampa 5/19) lt to Australia 78/2 in 6.2 ovs (Finch 40).
West Indies lose to Sri Lanka, Crash out
ABU DHABI: Defending champions West Indies crashed out of the T20 World Cup after their loss to Sri Lanka by 20 runs here on Thursday. Sri Lanka put on board a challenging 189/3 with Cjarith Asalanka scoring 68 runs. Despite Shimron Hetmyer’s unbeaten 81, West Indies fell short as they managed 169/8. Brief scores: Sri Lanka 189/3 in 20 ovs (Nissanka 51, Asalanka 68) bt West Indies 169/8 in 20 ovs (Pooran 46, Hetmyer 81 n.o).