Off-spinner R Ashwin remains an injury doubt for the third Test against Australia, India coach Ravi Shastri said on Sunday while also adding that Ravindra Jadeja had been carrying a niggle.
Ashwin was sidelined with an abdominal strain for the second Test in Perth and was sorely missed as Australia, led by off-spinner Nathan Lyon, won by 146 runs to level the series 1-1.
Shastri revealed Ashwin is racing the clock to be ready for the crunch Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, where the stakes are high in the four-Test series.
“As far as Ashwin is concerned, we are going to take a look and evaluate over the next 48 hours,” Shastri said.
Left-arm off-spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja is also carrying a niggle, but Rohit Sharma, who also missed Perth after hurting his lower back, is fit again.
“He has made a very good improvement but then again we have got to see how he pulls up tomorrow. But he looks good as of today,” said Shastri.
With Ashwin ruled out for the second Test, Virat Kohli announced an all-pace bowling attack that eventually proved to be decisive in the result, even if the Indian captain disagreed strongly. Despite Lyon’s player-of-the-match performance, Kohli was firm in his stance that selecting a spinner was not even considered when they took a look at the pitch.
Shastri, however, seemed to hint that Jadeja would have played if he had not been carrying an injury.
“When you are millions of miles away it’s very easy to fire blanks. The problem with Jadeja was he had taken an injection four days into coming to Australia because of stiffness in shoulder. When you look at Perth, we felt (Jadeja) was about 70-80 per cent fit and we didn’t want to risk that in Perth,” Shastri told reporters.
“If he was 80 per cent fit (in Melbourne), he (would) play. He had taken an injection even in India but he played domestic cricket after that. He still felt stiff in the shoulder when he came here and he was injected again, and it takes time to settle. It took longer than we expected, hence we had to be careful,” he added.
It was interesting, however, that Jadeja was on the field as a substitute quite often during the course of the first two Test matches.
“The last thing we wanted was someone breaking down after five or 10 overs and then we are stuck for players to pick for Melbourne or Sydney.
“We’ll have to evaluate (his) fitness over a 24-hour period and take it one step from there, and also (evaluate) the conditions,” Shastri said.
The Indian coach also confirmed that Hardik Pandya, who joined the squad after Perth Test, is fit but was cautious about throwing him in the deep end.
“He gives you that option, but he’s not played much of first class cricket though. Just one game after injury, we’ve got to be very careful before we actually decide on whether he plays or not,” Shastri said.
On whether he had something to say about criticism from former players over the team selection, Shastri chipped in with a typical quip.
“We have to do what’s best for the team, as simple as that. The question was asked by Jadeja which I answered. I don’t think there was any other selection dilemma. They [former players critcising] are too far away, we are in the Southern Hemisphere,” he signed off.
(With AFP inputs)