“I feel he will be in” - Harbhajan Singh predicts big change in India’s World Cup 2023 squad
Harbhajan Singh has predicted that off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will replace left-arm spinner Axar Patel in Team India’s 15-member squad for World Cup 2023. Harbhajan opined that Ashwin has been impressive in his comeback series against Australia, adding that his inclusion will add variety to the bowling attack.
India, somewhat surprisingly, did not pick a single off-spinner in their squad for the 2023 World Cup. They instead went for two left-arm spinners - Ravindra Jadeja and Axar - and a left-arm wrist-spinner in Kuldeep Yadav. However, Axar sustained a left quadriceps strain during the Asia Cup. He missed the final of the tournament and is not part of the ODI series against Australia as well.
While discussing Ashwin’s performance [3:25] in the ongoing series against the Aussies, Harbhajan backed the veteran offie to replace Axar in the 15-member World Cup squad.
“Ravichandran Ashwin has performed really well and I feel he will be in the World Cup squad. Teams can be changed before September 28 and I feel Axar Patel will be out as a variation will be added to the squad. Earlier, I felt they would play Washington Sundar because he was called to Sri Lanka before Ashwin," Harbhajan said on his YouTube channel.
"They have gone with Ashwin because he has the experience. The rest of the team is solid and I hope that the good performances continue,” he added.
As per the rules for the 2023 World Cup, teams can modify their squad before September 28. Any changes after that will require approval from the International Cricket Council (ICC).
He might struggle to make it to the final 15: Aaron Finch on Ashwin’s World Cup chances
While Ashwin has been impressive in the ODI series against Australia, former Aussie skipper Aaron Finch opined that the off-spinner is unlikely to make it to the 15-member World Cup squad.
He told Star Sports ahead of the third India vs Australia ODI in Rajkot:
"I think he (Ashwin) might struggle to make it to the final 15, but as somebody who has played so much cricket, I think the rest of the group that is with the Indian team for this current series against Australia, they could learn so much about big gameplay."
Because Ashwin is somebody that stands up in big games, whether it's a Test match or a T20 game, he has done it all throughout his career. So I wouldn't be surprised if he's there at the moment as a mentor around the group, but I don't see him making that last 15, unfortunately," he added.
Ashwin claimed 3/41 in seven overs as India beat Australia by 99 runs [DLS method] in the second ODI in Indore.