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Leading role

If Ashwin has been able, despite being thus unofficially classified as someone who must make his own way, to roll on for so long with distinction, that is proof enough he is useful to the team. They’d dropped him rather bullheadedly on the England tour ~ the cornerstone of Kohli’s selection policy having been to snub Ashwin ~ and that left you trying to guess how much the Tamil Nadu man had missed in terms of his haul of wickets.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

To plunge into the middle of action in the recent Cape Town Test, there was, on the telly, Ravichandran Ashwin beginning a new spell. Well might he have wanted a spread-out field and got it too. The off spinner wasn’t apparently relying on turn, but the track didn’t seem stingy with the sort of lift that tweakers relish. He finished his overs without a wicket, and you wondered if another captain would have made his presence felt, counselled a fuller length with a few close-in catchers. This is akin to what we have all heard Ashwin talk about in the past; while others have been backed, he has been left to his own devices.

If MS Dhoni hadn’t really been his most passionate admirer, he wasn’t Virat Kohli’s top choice either. There are lots of reasons why two people can be on different planets despite being in the same dressing-room. In Indian cricket, with its additional complications of diverse backgrounds, it is hardly new or surprising.

If Ashwin has been able, despite being thus unofficially classified as someone who must make his own way, to roll on for so long with distinction, that is proof enough he is useful to the team. They’d dropped him rather bullheadedly on the England tour ~ the cornerstone of Kohli’s selection policy having been to snub Ashwin ~ and that left you trying to guess how much the Tamil Nadu man had missed in terms of his haul of wickets. But statistical milestones don’t elude you if you have history backing you up and your fresh attainments suggest a continuity. You carry on with pride, confident that you will in due course climb to the highest point in the pecking order. But do you? That happens to be a point that’s worth discussing now with Kohli gone, and his seat left vacant.

Dilip Vengsarkar has suggested Ashwin among his nominations for Test captaincy with a stipulation: groom someone else for it as we let our interim choice lead the team for, maybe, one year or so. The Mumbai stalwart is no longer part of the system, but he knows what it is. Two power centres in the same unit may not be everyone’s way of doing things but officialdom can slip up despite its moments of lucidity.

Bengal never chose Dhoni when he, living at Kharagpur, qualified for Ranji Trophy representation. The fact of the matter is that Ashwin is eligible for the job. After the Kohli experiment, we should desist from a largerthan-life, three-in-one repetition.

KL Rahul, though he has already had a taste of the leading role in Tests, will surely be a good candidate one day but India should let him concentrate on his batting, given that we often look alarmingly infirm, especially abroad, even in our happier moments. The Test XI will have a few newcomers, probably in the middle order, who could do with a captain who is a seasoned campaigner. And Ashwin will find his way all right.