R Ashwin could end up losing on valuable red-ball cricket in the lead-up to the England Tests if reports that many India players will be rested for the Afghanistan Test are true. Having committed himself to playing the one-off Afghanistan Test when selectors spoke to him, Ashwin didn’t continue his talks with Worcestershire, who were interested in having him over in June but have now signed up Travis Head instead.
The selectors meet on Tuesday to pick the side for the Test, which begins on June 14 in Bengaluru. They will also select the squads for the two T20Is in Ireland, the limited-overs leg of the England tour, and A team tour of England.
It is learnt that the selectors spoke to a few senior players about a month ago to know their preference of preparation for the England tour. Virat Kohli opted for a stint in county cricket to join Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma, who had no IPL commitments and have been playing there since the start of the English summer. Ashwin, though, is believed to have communicated that he wanted to play the Afghanistan Test.
Times of India has now quoted sources close to the two-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) as saying Ashwin is among the eight regular players expected to be rested for the Test. If that does happen, Ashwin, and other seniors who might have opted for the Test, will be left in the lurch.
If the selectors do indeed go ahead and rest Ashwin, early communication to that effect could have helped him go ahead with his county plans. If Ashwin is rested, the only option for any red-ball cricket for him before the tour of England remains the two India A four-day games against West Indies A in Leicester and Croydon between June 10 and 20.
The communication between the players and the selectors and whatever is left of the BCCI has not been ideal for some time now. Last year, when Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were dropped for the limited-overs leg in Sri Lanka, the selectors told not only the media that the two best Test spinners at that time were only being rested but even the players themselves were informed they were only being “rotated”.
Jadeja couldn’t settle down on a county deal on short notice last year, but when Ashwin asked for an NoC to join Worcestershire he was initially allowed to go for only two matches because the BCCI wanted him back for the Australia ODIs. As it turned out, the replacements Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav did well in Sri Lanka, and continued for the Australia ODIs, which meant fresh negotiations and fresh NoCs.
The selectors don’t really have to rest a lot of players for the Afghanistan Test. The county sides of Pujara and Ishant are not playing when the Test in Bengaluru is on; they can easily make the Test side. Neither Yorkshire nor Sussex play any first-class fixtures between May 14 and June 20. Most of this break is a window for the domestic one-day competition in England before the first-class competition resumes on June 9. Although India’s Tests in England begin only in August, there will be little first-class county cricket in July, which is a window for T20 fixtures.