India began the five-match Test series against England with their first assignment at Trent Bridge in Nottingham. Walking up to the pre-match toss, Virat Kohli’s lineup revelation was met with plenty of shock, surprise and a plethora of questions.
Ravichandran Ashwin, a backbone in India’s red-ball side was not included in the starting XI. Instead, Team India decided to go ahead with an additional pace bowler in Shardul Thakur. What was even more surprising was the fact that Ashwin was dropped after being in red-hot form in Test cricket throughout the year.
He had been decisive during the series in Australia where India ended up registering a historic victory. Ashwin also troubled English batsmen on the pitches of Chennai and Ahmedabad and even went on to score a century and pick up a five-wicket-haul in the same match. The veteran spinner was also India’s best bowler during the World Test Championship Final against New Zealand. Ahead of the Test series against England, Ashwin was also involved in the County Championship for Surrey and had several impressive outings.
Therefore, his exclusion for the first Test of the series was met with plenty of shock from former legends like Wasim Jaffer, Michael Vaughan, and VVS Laxman who couldn’t figure out the reason about him being dropped from the starting XI.
Legendary Indian batsman VVS Laxman said that he would’ve definitely picked Ashwin as he’s a match-winning bowler. This reason also precedes the need to pick a bowler who can bat at number 8 (Shardul Thakur). “For me, if you’re picking a bowler who is going to bat at No. 8, I would go for a bowler who could give match-winning performances with the ball and for me that would be R Ashwin. So, I would have gone with the balance that India had in the WTC final,” Laxman said on ESPN Cricinfo.
He also questioned the team management for their decision to drop Ashwin. “In the past, I played in a team where you had four fast bowlers and invariably one of the fast bowlers was underbowled. So, I don’t know why Virat Kohli and the team management went with this decision,” he added.
After stumps on Day 1, Shardul Thakur revealed that the management didn’t expect much turn on the pitch. That is the reason why they decided to progress with four pacers instead.