MSK backs KL Rahul to make strong team comeback

In the wake of fitness issues and the success of other spinners, there may have been a few question marks over R Ashwin’s stature as the No 1 spinner in the Test team, but chairman of selectors M S K Prasad made it clear that the off-spinner was still India’s first-choice tweaker, whether playing at home or away.       

“Undoubtedly,” Prasad told DH here on Wednesday when asked about Ashwin. “There are no two ways about it, absolutely no two ways about it. Ashwin is our No 1 spinner and he is one of the best spinners in the world. In fact, every country we play, they always plan against Ashwin first compared to other spinners. He is our premier spinner,” he emphasised.

Ashwin has suffered from injuries in the last two series in England and Australia and in both these countries, he failed to play in the final Tests. He missed the Oval match due to a groin injury while he could only play the opening Test in Adelaide against Australia after failing to recover from left abdomen strain.

Asked if it was a concern that their lead spinner was unable to complete two successive series due to injuries, Prasad said he would never question Ashwin’s commitment to fitness.       

“If we are talking about Ashwin, we are talking about a current-day legendary spinner,” he noted. “The number of victories that he has given to us, it’s phenomenal. I am sure as a professional he knows what’s the fitness level that’s expected of him. Injuries are part and parcel of the game of every player. I don’t exactly question as to what happened (with his fitness in England and Australia). Someone who is exerting only is prone to injuries. So, I have no doubt about his commitment. It’s unfortunate but he will come back strong. He has so much cricket left in him and he has so much to offer for the Indian cricket.” 

The former India stumper also backed K L Rahul to return stronger to the Indian team. The Karnataka opener, besides suffering a dip in form also got into trouble after his comments on a TV chat show where he featured alongside Hardik Pandya. Their comments about women attracted a lot of flak and the BCCI was forced to suspend and recall them from the ODI series against Australia. After two weeks of uncertainty, the suspension was lifted and while Pandya flew to join the team in New Zealand for the limited-over series, Rahul has been accommodated in India ‘A’ side against the touring England Lions. The right-hander, however, has struggled to make runs.

While admitting that Rahul’s form dipped, Prasad stressed it was the time to back the youngster to the hilt.

“Everybody goes through those phases,” he began. “We want KL to be among runs and that’s why we have included him in the few games against England Lions and there is BP XI match also coming up and we still have some more games against Australia to come at home. I think when a player, who has done extremely well and is out of form, that’s where we need to back him. I am sure in time to come, KL will definitely get back into form and get back into the Indian team as well.

“I still stand by my statement (I once made) that he is too good a player not to be playing. He is the only player who has two T20I centuries and we know the quality that he has. Unfortunately, his form has dipped, there’s no two ways about it. We really want him to make a strong comeback by getting runs in whatever matches he gets his opportunities. I am sure he will do so,” he concluded.

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MSK backs KL Rahul to make strong team comeback

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