India’s chief selector MSK Prasad, on Wednesday, backed off-spinner R Ashwin as the team’s first-choice in Test cricket despite recent fitness issues.

“Undoubtedly. There are no two ways about it. Ashwin is our No. 1 spinner and he is one of the best spinners in the world,” Prasad was quoted as saying by The Hindu. “In fact, every country we play, they always plan against Ashwin first compared to other spinners. He is our premier spinner.”

Prasad’s comments came a day after India chief coach Ravi Shastri backed Kuldeep Yadav to be the first-choice in overseas matches.

Ashwin, who lost his place in the ODI and T20 sides more than 18 months ago, missed five out of India’s 12 overseas Tests starting from the tour of South Africa. He was left out of the team in the third Test against South Africa on a seaming track, while injury sidelined him for the last Test in England as well the last three Test of the four-match series against Australia.

Prasad, though, was confident that Ashwin will make a strong return from the injury layoff.

“If we are talking about Ashwin, we are talking about a legendary spinner. We have to accept that first and the number of victories that he has given to us is 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),” Prasad said.

Also read: With Ravi Shastri backing Kuldeep Yadav as India’s main spinner in Tests, what next for R Ashwin?

Yadav came into the XI in the fourth and final Test in Sydney as Ashwin could not recover completely from his injury sustained during the first Test. The left-arm spinner claimed five wickets in the first innings. The performance had sent social media on overdrive as they wondered if the left-arm wrist spinner would soon upstage Ashwin and Jadeja.

Shastri had made it clear that going forward, wrist spinners will be in vogue in Test cricket and Kuldeep is “already” ahead of Ashwin and Jadeja as country’s No.1 spinner.

“He plays overseas Test cricket and he gets five wickets, so he becomes our primary overseas spinner. Going ahead, if we have to play one spinner, he is the one we will pick,” Shastri told Cricbuzz in an interview that was published on Tuesday.

“There is a time for everyone. But now Kuldeep is our frontline number one overseas spinner,” he added. “I was very impressed with the way Kuldeep bowled in Sydney. Even in Test cricket, it is going to be the age of wrist spin, especially in overseas Test cricket. The way he bowled in Sydney, he becomes our number one spinner in overseas Test cricket.”

Shastri’s assertion meant that Ashwin and Jadeja may have to fight for the second spinners spot even in home Tests.

For now, though, Ashwin can take heart from the chief selector’s words as he backed the off-spinner, who holds the record for being the quickest to take 300 Test wickets.

“Someone who is exerting is only prone to injuries. Someone who isn’t exerting will not get injured. 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 Indian cricket.”

(With PTI inputs)