Two things from India’s playing XI for the fifth Test against England at the Oval made headlines. The selection of Hanuma Vihari in the team ahead of Karun Nair and the omission of R Ashwin due to injury.
During the toss, Indian captain Virat Kohli said that out of the two changes made for the fifth Test, one is a forced one as Ashwin has aggravated his niggle. Again the key word to note here is ‘aggravated’ which means that Ashwin was already injured and by playing in the fourth Test, he simply increased the severity of his injury.
Ashwin was, in fact, struggling with fitness from the third Test. But he did feature in the fourth Test and the team management claimed that the off-spinner was completely fit. However, Ashwin fared poorly in Test and his failure was vital to the game as the other off-spinner in the match, Moeen Ali picked nine wickets and steered England home.
Ashwin’s performance in the fourth Test, especially his failure to extract assistance from the rough in the third innings drew a lot of criticism and some even blamed the spinner for India’s defeat.
Interestingly, after the fourth Test, the Indian team management claimed that Ashwin was fully fit. The Indian coach Ravi Shastri when asked about the reason for Ashwin’s failure said that it was for everyone to see as the England spinner hit those rough patches more than Ashwin.
But Kohli’s statement at the toss has made it clear that Ashwin was indeed unfit for the fourth Test. This revelation by Kohli left the fans fuming and some of them vented their disappointment on Twitter.
This is not the first time India played a half-fit player in a game. Earlier in the ODI series against England, India fielded Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the final ODI who aggravated his injury and had to miss out on the entire Test series.