It took India captain Rohit Sharma about 55 minutes and 15 overs to throw the ball to Ravichandran Ashwin in the morning session of Day 2 in the third Test against Australia at the Holkar Stadium in Indore. India started the proceedings with Mohammed Siraj and Ravindra Jadeja and then went to Axar Patel before finally deciding to use the veteran off-spinner after overnight batters Peter Handscomb and Cameron Green got off to a solid start, negating everything India threw at them for the first hour.
Ashwin, India’s highest wicket-taker among active cricketers, opened the bowling with spin partner Ravindra Jadeja on Wednesday but wasn’t quite able to find the right areas to extract the desired results on a pitch that had plenty of turn for the tweakers. But was that enough to keep your premier spinner and the cricketer who just attained the No.1 ranking among bowlers in Tests displacing James Anderson, out of the attack for such a long time? After all, it is the morning session that is supposed to provide maximum purchase for the spinners.
Ashwin proved his worth as early as in his second over of the day. He provided the breakthrough by dismissing the stubborn Peter Handscomb, who had been brilliant with his assured defensive technique. The pitch wasn’t offering as sharp a turn as Day 1, which meant the spinners had to bring their guile into play and who better than Ashwin to do that? He gave the ball air, beat Handscomb in the air and with the drift, got the right amount of turn to find the inside edge of his bat and Shreyas Iyer, at forward short-leg took a sharp catch.
INDIA VS AUSTRALIA LIVE SCORE 3rd TEST
Ashwin’s late introduction into the attack was heavily criticised by former India cricketers Ajit Agarkar, Ravi Shastri and former Australia pacer Mitchell Johnson. Agarkar said he was baffled by the delay.
“Don’t think India have been spot-on with their tactics. No Ashwin in the first hour? He is your premier bowler and has bowled only 16 overs so far. I know Axar Patel is playing as a specialist spinner but got to go to Ashwin. It’s baffling,” Agarkar said in commentary.
“It’s what he does to the right-handers from around the wicket that can really cause confusion. One might spin, and one might not. We’ve already seen Smith in this series, the one that ran past his bat,” Johnson agreed.
“At the moment, it seems that the pitch has lost a bit of a bite but certainly there’s a lot in it,” Agarkar continued.
“He has been warming up since morning,” Shastri said.
Ashwin got a couple of more wickets, that of Alex Carey and Nathan Lyon as India staged yet another turnaround to stay well and truly in the contest. After Ashwin broke the Handscomb and Green partnership, India got five wickets for just 11 runs to bowl Australia out for 197. The visitors have a handy lead of 88 but India made sure they stayed in the game.