Ashwin’s selection has been a consistent theme through India’s recent Tests in England, or more accurately the fact that he has not been picked. He missed out entirely on the last Test series in England, of which four Tests were played in 2021 and one last summer. In India’s last Test at The Oval, in September 2021, they picked Ravindra Jadeja as the sole spinner, relying on a three-man pace attack and Shardul Thakur as the all-round option.
“I’m not saying that Ashwin is not going to play,” Rohit said. “We’ll wait until tomorrow because one thing I have seen here, the pitch actually changes quite a bit day to day. Today it’s looking this way, tomorrow it might be slightly different, who knows? So, the message to the boys has been very clear. All 15 must be ready to play at any point in time.”
Going by the data from those county matches, some behavioural traits are clear, the clearest one that spin has barely had a role to play.
Spinners have only bowled 32 overs in those games (average: 158), compared to 745 from pace bowlers. No spinner on either side has bowled more than seven overs in an innings. Surrey have not deployed a specialist spinner, relying instead on Will Jacks’ part-time offbreaks. That has been a deliberate ploy, the team playing to its strengths of a good crop of fast bowlers. The locals say that is why surfaces have been geared for both good pace and bounce with minimal help for spin as the game progresses.
Bounce is likely at the WTC final too, at least going by the Surrey curator Lee Fortis’ – admittedly light-hearted – exchange on Ashwin’s YouTube channel: “It will be bouncy, that’s one thing, it will be bouncy.”
Bowling first may not be a bad option based on those numbers, but no side has crossed 400 in their first innings, the highest score Surrey’s 380 after Middlesex had been bowled out for 209.