London, June 9
Former Australia captain Steve Waugh said India made a huge mistake by leaving out Ravichandran Ashwin from the playing eleven for the World Test Championship (WTC) Final at The Oval, saying he would have selected the ace off-spinner for his batting, let alone for his ace bowling skills.
With 474 wickets in 92 matches at a strike-rate of 51.8, including 32 five-wicket innings hauls, Ashwin, the top-ranked Test bowler, was left out of the marquee clash as India preferred four fast-bowlers, as Australia made 469 in their first innings.
Ashwin's exclusion from the playing eleven has invited severe criticism of the Indian team from former cricketers of both nations, with Waugh the latest person to join in.
"I do think (India) have picked the wrong side," he said.
"Spin will play a big part in this Test match and it is going to be up and down. I would have picked Ashwin for his batting, let alone his bowling. That is why I can't believe he isn't playing because he has got five Test centuries as well. It is very strange," Waugh was quoted as saying by The West Australian on Friday.
Similar views were echoed by former Australia spinner Brad Hogg. "India made a decision and whatever the wicket was like they should have played Ashwin anyway They have just come off an IPL and have got four fast bowlers out there that haven't bowled long spells."
"So Ashwin and Jadeja could have held up one end and taken a lot of pressure off the fast bowlers at the other end when they were low on fuel," he added.
Waugh was also critical of India's decision to bowl first, recalling how Australia made a similar error in the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval in 2019. In that match, England won by 145 runs after then-skipper Tim Paine had elected to bowl first.
"We made the same blunder four years ago in the Ashes. The Oval is always tricky. It looks green on top but underneath it is crumbly and a bit dry. You can get lulled into the overcast sky and green pitch and think it is going to do everything. As soon as the sun comes out it is totally different and dries out quickly."
India will resume Day Three of the WTC Final at The Oval from 151/5 and require a big rescue act from Ajinkya Rahane (29 not out), KS Bharat (five not out) and the lower order to avoid conceding a huge lead to Australia.