Is there a North-South divide in Indian Cricket?
Indian cricket has always been a stage for extraordinary talents, with players from diverse backgrounds showcasing their skills. However, there has been a persistent undercurrent of the North-South divide in the cricketing landscape. South Indian players often feel they have to work harder to gain national recognition compared to their Hindi-speaking counterparts. Ravichandran Ashwin, the brilliant Tamil cricketer, has been a victim of this divide despite being one of the most intelligent and skilled players in the team.
The Donkey’s Job and Selfless Contribution
Anil Kumble a mentor of Ashwin, a cricketing legend, once held the captaincy when he was about to retire. He had shouldered the “donkey’s job” for the Indian bowling department for years, selflessly giving his all for the team. Similarly, Ashwin, with his exceptional off-spin bowling, has been a match-winner for India on record number of occasions. However, despite his dedication and consistent performance, he has been overlooked for leadership positions in the national team.
A Tale of Two Vice-Captains
Ashwin’s exclusion from leadership roles becomes even more evident when comparing his case with that of other players. Ajinkya Rahane, who was dropped from the team 1.5 years ago, was called back and handed the vice-captaincy after just one good test match performance in the WTC 2023 final. On the other hand, Jasprit Bumrah, with less experience than Ashwin, was given the captaincy for a test match in England before. While Rishabh Pant was appointed vice-captain before, Ashwin, despite his vast experience, was not even considered for such responsibilities.
Undervalued Brilliance and Records
Ashwin’s cricketing intelligence and exceptional skills have earned him a record number of Man of the Series performances in Test cricket. He has consistently shown his ability to be a match-winner, often turning the match in India’s favor with his remarkable performances. However, despite being the best bowler for India in the WTC 2021 final, he was inexplicably dropped from the playing 11, in the following 4 test matches, leaving fans and experts baffled.
The Ravindra Jadeja Comparison
One of the striking instances of bias is the preference given to Ravindra Jadeja over Ashwin. While Jadeja is undoubtedly a talented all-rounder, Ashwin’s bowling prowess is unparalleled. Yet, he has often found himself sitting on the bench while Jadeja plays. This decision is often attributed to Jadeja’s superior batting ability, despite Ashwin’s significant contributions with the bat as well. Even lesser bowlers are preferred over Ashwin like Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, etc.
The obsession with pace bowlers seems to blind the team management to the wizardry that Ashwin brings to the game. While fast bowlers might grab attention with their pace and aggression, it should not come at the expense of ignoring the artistry and intellect that a skilled spinner like Ashwin brings to the field. Winning is more important to the country than the team management’s foolish team selections, which is detrimental to the country’s winning prospects. Ashwin being the biggest match winner should be the first name to be named when picking the squad in test cricket.
The Price of Arrogance and Jealousy
The sidelining of Ashwin in Test cricket has raised questions about the influence of certain senior players and the team’s coaching staff. The perception of a North-South divide in Indian cricket has fueled speculation about the reasons behind Ashwin’s continued exclusion. The team’s performance in several matches may have suffered due to the refusal to include Ashwin in the playing 11.
Ravichandran Ashwin’s cricketing journey is a tale of brilliance overshadowed by the North-South divide in Indian cricket. Despite being one of the most intelligent and skillful cricketers in the team, he has been denied leadership positions and frequently left out of crucial matches. The need of the hour is to recognize and appreciate Ashwin’s exceptional talents and acknowledge his rightful place as a leader and match-winner for India. It is high time that merit, not regional biases, takes precedence in Indian cricket.