With Ashwin in the 15th spot, Kuldeep isn’t….’: Shastri and Harbhajan’s intriguing IND World Cup XI idea on Jadeja’s partner.

With Ashwin in the 15th spot, Kuldeep isn’t….’: Shastri and Harbhajan’s intriguing IND World Cup XI idea on Jadeja’s partner.

Ravi Shastri and Harbhajan Singh have sparked a new and fascinating debate about spin combinations for the World Cup playing XI.

As a result of various comments made by veterans, experts, and on talk shows leading up to the ODI World Cup, India has largely had only one selection headache – the middle-order line-up. With Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav ticking the final boxes for the 50-over event at home, the debate is over who should take the No. 4 and 5 spots, alongside Ishan Kishan and KL Rahul. However, the presence of legends Ravi Shastri and Harbhajan Singh has sparked a new and rather intriguing debate about spin combinations for the World Cup playing XI, with veteran bowler Ravichandran Ashwin making a late entry into the squad.

The question that sparked a lively debate about India’s possible line-up for the tournament wasn’t direct, but rather focused on whether finger-spinners have lost their value in white-ball cricket.

Former India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh told ESPNCricinfo that it ultimately depends on a bowler’s skill level and that the Indian management should not only look to play Ashwin, who replaced an injured Axar Patel in the World Cup squad last week, when an opponent has more left-handed batting options. He then stated that the all-rounder would be his first or second choice for India’s bowling option in the playing XI.

People are realizing that skill is more important than talent. It’s not as if an off-spinner can’t bowl to right-handers. Even though I suggested that Ashwin should play if the opposition has more left-handers, that is not what the management believes. “However, if I were captain or part of management, I would select my five best bowlers, and Ashwin would be first or second on that list,” he said.

The direct question was eventually posed after the 2011 World Cup-winning player revealed his bowling lineup. “If I had to pick today, it would be Bumrah, Shami, Siraj, Jadeja, and Ashwin,” he said.

Kuldeep’s position has never been in doubt due to his outstanding performance since October of last year. Kuldeep played 21 ODIs during the period, the most by a bowler, and picked up 40 wickets (second most) at 17.20 with a five-wicket haul.

Harbhajan, on the other hand, backed Ashwin, who made his ODI comeback after a 20-month absence last week in the series against Australia, owing to his ability to bat.

‘Kuldeep is not a given.’

Former India head coach Ravi Shastri agreed completely, stating that India must be flexible with their playing XI and that Ashwin’s inclusion in the squad has added to the debate over India’s playing XI.

You must be adaptable. I’ll go one step further and watch the opponents to see how they’ll match up with whom. And now that Ashwin is in the 15, the XI is constantly challenged. Kuldeep is not a sure thing unless he comes in and starts off strong. Yes, there is no doubt about Kuldeep’s performance… he is bowling at his best for the first time in a long time. But on a certain day and on a certain track…if the pitch is dry, you would only want two fast bowlers because Hardik Pandya is also available,” he explained.

However, the former India all-rounder urged Ashwin to play as an attacking spin option, looking to pick up wickets in the middle overs.

What you don’t want to see from Ashwin is defensive bowling when given the chance. “You want him to demonstrate his abilities and take wickets in the middle overs,” he added.

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