R Ashwin’s white ball comeback is likely to continue as the veteran spinner is in line for a call-up to India’s ODI squad for the three-match series in South Africa. After his selection for the recent T20 World Cup in the UAE, Ashwin, who had featured only in red-ball cricket in the last four years, is set to be handed an ODI berth by the Chetan Sharma-led selection committee, which is expected to sit in the next 48 hours. Ashwin last played an ODI in June 2017.
Ashwin’s performance in the T20 World Cup as well as in the two home T20Is against New Zealand in Jaipur and Ranchi last month had also impressed India’s new white ball think-tank – skipper Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid – which has started planning for the 2023 World Cup, to be held in India. His chief competition for the spinners’ role, Ravindra Jadeja, still has fitness issues but Axar Patel, apparently, has recovered. Yuzvendra Chahal may be back in the squad, too.
Ashwin’s expected return is not the only big call to be taken by the selection committee members who – barring two – are currently in Jaipur to watch the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy between Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh on Sunday (December 26). Cricbuzz understands Venkatesh Iyer, who has been making waves since his breakout performance in the UAE leg of the IPL in September-October, will get the selectors nod as a probable backup for Hardik Pandya, who has been troubled by injuries of late.
With four centuries in five games of the Vijay Hazare tournament, Maharashtra and Chennai Super Kings opener Ruturaj Gaikwad will inevitably select himself. But the selectors will have to wrack their brains over another opener, Shikhar Dhawan. Last time India played an ODI series – in Sri Lanka in July – the southpaw was the skipper but has since been facing stiff competition from the likes of Devdutt Paddikal and Prithvi Shaw who have been doing well.
Adding to the selectors’ dilemma is the presence of KL Rahul, another opener, and Rohit, if fit. The selectors are understood to be waiting on Rohit’s fitness report, after he missed the South Africa Tests because of hamstring issues. If unavailable, the panel will have to name a stand-in captain too. The three ODIs are scheduled on January 19 (Paarl), 21 (Paarl) and 23 (Cape Town).