India’s cricket team is gearing up for its 2023 World Cup inaugural match with a three-match ODI series against Australia, beginning on September 22. The team will be led by KL Rahul for the initial two matches, as both Rohit Sharma and deputy Hardik Pandya take a breather. This series is India’s last bilateral engagement before the much-anticipated tournament, where they will also participate in two warm-up matches against England and the Netherlands.
The series will be a litmus test for India’s bench strength, with several key players including Virat Kohli rested for the first two games. The series also marks the comeback of renowned spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to the ODI arena after more than a year. Ashwin’s last appearance for India was in January 2022 during the ODIs against South Africa. His return has been facilitated by an injury to all-rounder Axar Patel, with the BCCI closely monitoring Patel’s fitness before the vital World Cup.
Ashwin’s return was perceived as abrupt by many, but the off-spinner has clarified that he was kept informed by the team management since his return from the West Indies tour in August.
India commenced the West Indies tour with two Test matches, post which Ashwin returned to India while the team continued to participate in three ODIs and five T20Is. Ashwin disclosed that the management encouraged him to be prepared for any potential opportunity.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for me. Over the past three to four years, my focus has been less about what I want to achieve and more about giving myself the best chance to enjoy,” Ashwin stated. He further added that he kept himself in touch with his fitness and bowled in a few sessions, following a break after his return from the West Indies.
Ashwin also participated in several club matches upon his return to India, but he maintained that he did not harbour expectations of being called up to the ODI squad.
“I set high expectations for myself. It’s easier to manage expectations when they are self-imposed. I pride myself on my performance and practice. Having expectations from things beyond your control can often lead to disappointment, as they are not within your control,” the off-spinner remarked.
In parallel news, turmoil seems to be brewing in Pakistan’s cricket scene, as reported. Inzamam purportedly skipped the PCB’s review meeting in a fit of rage, and Hafeez resigned right before the World Cup, throwing the team into chaos.