Sourav Ganguly believes Ravichandran Ashwin will be the key for India against the West Indies
Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly, who is celebrating his 44th birthday today, has singled out off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin as the potential match winner for India in the upcoming Test series against West Indies. Despite a dramatic loss in form and concerns over his fitness, Ganguly believes a return to Test cricket will once again bring out the best from the wily spinner.
Ashwin enjoyed a highly successful year in the longest format of the game in 2015 bagging back-to-back Man of the Series awards against Sri Lanka away and later at home against South Africa. His 21 wickets from 3 matches against the Lankans was instrumental in helping the visitors achieve a memorable come from behind victory against their neighbours after losing the opening Test at the Galle.
Back in home conditions, Ashwin looked even more potent with the Proteas left clueless with the amount of turn and bounce he was generating on the helpful Indian pitches. He bagged 31 wickets from four matches with many hailing him as one of India’s greatest match-winners, having already bagged his fifth Man-of-the-Series award.
However, with the cricket calendar switching to the shorter formats, beginning with the ODIs against Australia and then the marathon run of T20s with first India and then with his new IPL franchise, the Rising Pune Supergiants, Ashwin went from a world-beater to a bowler desperately lacking in confidence, even being left out of the side on many occasions.
Question marks have been raised about Ashwin’s effectiveness on pitches that doesn’t offer much help to his style of bowling, but Ganguly still believes Ashwin can rediscover his form, especially with the legendary Anil Kumble guiding him in his new role as India coach.
"I think Ashwin will be the key in West Indies,"Ganguly told the reporters who had assembled at his residence in Kolkata on the occasion of his birthday. Ganguly, who seems to have put the ugly verbal spat with former Team India manager Ravi Shastri behind him, wished Kumble, as well as Indian skipper Virat Kohli, the very best for the series which he believes will be a tough one for the visitors.
West Indies has enjoyed a highly successful 2016 so far with victories in the Under-19 World Cup and the Women’s T20 World Cup before sealing the ice on the cake with their second T20 World Cup triumph, beating hosts India in the semi-final before clinching the final against England in truly dramatic fashion. They followed it up with a highly-spirited performance in the ODI tri-series at home which featured Australia and South Africa, making it to the final before falling to Steven Smith’s men.
They might not be so feared in the Test format, but Ganguly still believes the West Indies can provide stiff competition to Kohli’s men in home conditions. Nevertheless, he still expects India to come out on top in the four-Test series.
"They are looking stronger and in the middle of a fine form. But I think India have the side to beat them. I wish luck to (Virat) Kohli and (Anil) Kumble," Ganguly said.