Ravichandran Ashwin's form will decide the fate of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, feels former India head coach Ravi Shastri, who wouldn't want the team's premier spinner to "over-plan" against Australia in the upcoming four-match Test series. (More Cricket News)
Shastri, under whose tutelage India won back-to-back Test series in Australia, also has no hesitation in naming Kuldeep Yadav as his choice as the third spinner while keeping Suryakumar Yadav as a potent middle-order game-changer.
"Ashwin, you don't want him to over-plan. He is good enough to stick to his plans as he is real crucial player here. His form might decide the series. Ashwin comes as a package, he will get you important runs as well," Shastri said, while answering a query from PTI during an interaction organised by Star Sports, the official broadcasters of the Border Gavaskar Trophy.
"If Ashwin is on fire, that might decide the outcome of the series. He is world-class in most conditions, but in Indian conditions, he is lethal. If the ball starts spinning and there is enough bite off the surface, he will trouble most batters.
"So, you don't want Ashwin to overthink and try too many things. Just keep it there and let the pitch do the rest because as it is, it does enough in India," Shastri, one of the shrewdest brains in Indian cricket, said.
To another query from PTI on his choice as the third spinner, Shastri replied: "As far as third spinner is concerned, I would like to see Kuldeep play straight away. Jadeja and Axar are pretty similar bowlers. Kuldeep is different. If you lose the toss on Day 1, you need someone who will give it a rip.
"If anyone spins it one Day 1, it will be Kuldeep. If the track doesn't have too much on offer, then Kuldeep can come into play."
He also gave another important reason to include Kuldeep in the playing XI.
"As the game progresses with the fast bowlers the Australians have, the rough created on both sides of the track will come into play. So wrist spinners can get the ball to turn back in and out both ways."
Shastri is unapologetic when asked about the kind of track he would want.
"I want the ball to turn from Day 1. Lose the toss, so be it. Something there on offer from Day 1, playing at home, cash in on it."
TOUGH CHOICE BETWEEN SKY AND SHUBMAN
Shastri reckoned that India should keep their 12 ready with Shubman Gill in the scheme of things and then decide looking at the conditions of the track.
He doesn't want Suryakumar Yadav to be ruled out from the playing XI as a quick 40 on a rank turner from him could be a potential game-changer.
"Tough choice. You have to pick the best player for that position (No. 5). Surya is one player who will be proactive and looking to rotate the strike.
"If you want to do well in India, you have got to rotate the strike and not let bowlers bowl maidens at you. Blocking won't help. A quick 30 or 40 could decide the fate of game. He (Surya) can get (the runs) quickly and disrupt the opposition. India should back themselves to win by two-match margin," Shastri, a veteran of 80 Tests said.
KOHLI'S RECORD AGAINST AUSTRALIA SHOULD SPUR HIM ON
Shastri is confident that Virat Kohli's near 50 average in Tests against Australia will spur him on and if he gets going in the first couple of innings, he would spell doom for the Australians.
"His (Kohli's) record against Australia would spur him on. He would be charged up and want to start well. You should look at his first two innings. If he gets off to a start, he would be a thorn in flesh for Aussies. They would for sure won't want that to happen.
"Kohli has average of just under 50 against Australia. Amazing record, that should really get him going."
BETTER KEEPER AGAINST SPINNER SHOULD GET THE NOD
Rishabh Pant's absence would really hurt India and Shastri admitted that one tough call would be whether to choose a better batter in Ishan Kishan or a relatively safer keeper in Kona Bharat.
"That's a tough call for India. That's how important Pant is. He ticked all boxes. Not only did his keeping improved, but he could get under the skin of the opposition. As a batter, he is so dangerous. Pant has played more match-winning knocks than any of our top five batters in recent times. So that's how big a blow it is."
As far as the choice between Kishan and Bharat, Shastri said, "If the pitch offers turn, the better keeper should play. For Jadeja, Kuldeep and Ashwin, they would need good keeper behind stumps. Now it is up to you, who do you think is a better keeper."