India’s young captain Suresh Raina has managed to get what Mahendra Singh Dhoni could not.
First, he got leg-spinner Amit Mishra and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who have been playing musical chairs in the last one year, in the team for the tri-series in Zimbabwe. And as icing on the cake, the selectors picked R Ashwin, a talented off-spinner from Tamil Nadu, following his decent showing in the IPL
The skipper, thus, has an enviable variety in his spin arsenal.
While the squad to Bangladesh for the Test series in January had three spinners, it is after a fairly long time that the Indian team is travelling abroad with three spinners, covering all varieties, for a one-day series.
Though skipper Raina said the young bunch of pacers would shine in the outing, the spin department will be his best bet. “We have a bunch of talented youngsters and it will be good opportunity for all of us,” the 23-year-old said at a press conference here before the team’s departure. “We have experienced players in the spin department and are keen to do well in Zimbabwe.”
For Mishra and Ojha, who have been pushing hard for the second spinner’s spot in the Asia Cup team, the next two weeks will play a crucial role in checking in for the Asia Cup, starting June 15.
Young and restless
Amid the Mishra-Ojha rivalry, Ashwin would hope for a tweak in his fortunes. But he is rooted to the surface. “I am not thinking about the Asia Cup at the moment – my focus is only on this tournament,” he said. “We have three good spinners in the team, so it’s not about hoping for a place in the next series but about doing your job and cashing in on any opportunity that comes your way (in Zimbabwe).”
The 23-year-old opened with the new ball for his IPL side, Chennai Super Kings, and added a new dimension to his bowling. And though he said that “helping each other is more important” while playing for the country, Ashwin is shrewd enough to realise the importance of that move. “When someone talks about me, they will know I can even open the bowling as an off spinner. That opens up a lot of options,” he said.
But the trip will be a point to prove for all three, as they will get a chance to firm up their place on the international stage, according to Ashwin.
Calm with experience
Being the most experienced among the trio, Mishra, making a comeback, knows the huge expectations and therefore wants to keep things simple. “There is no point in thinking too much ahead,” he said.
“One needs to be calm and just try to bowl properly using variations. If you keep thinking about your place in the team and lose focus, chances are you may end up nowhere,” Mishra added.
Ojha, meanwhile, rubbished the idea that the performance in Zimbabwe may not count for much. “There is also another team – Sri Lanka,” he said, “and this is an international tournament, so taking wickets won’t be easy.”
All three, though, are aware that only one of them will pass the test for the Asia Cup. With Harbhajan Singh set to retain his spot in the trip to the Emerald Islands, the trio will hope to make the most of this low-key event.
Besides the May 28-June 9 tri-series, also involving Sri Lanka, India play two T20 internationals against hosts Zimbabwe on June 12 and 13.