Ravichandran Ashwin showed how important he is to this Indian side by picking up his 27th five-wicket haul on Day 3 of the first Test against South Africa. It was Ashwin's charisma with the ball that helped India get back in the game which was, at one stage, slipping away when South African opener Dean Elgar and wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock were batting together. Former India great Sunil Gavaskar, who has been quite vocal about his opinion about Ashwin's contribution to the team, once again slammed the team management for not showing faith in the Chennai bowler. In the past also, Gavaskar was among those who had criticised Ashwin's exclusion from the playing XI in Test matches. In fact, this time Gavaskar went on to say that "Ashwin should be a certainty" for India in Test cricket.
"Ashwin should be a certainty. The fact that he has not been made to feel the comfort level is the reason why we are seeing him struggle a little bit," Gavaskar told official broadcasters after the end of first session on Day 3 of the ongoing Test.
"I think there is more to it than just cricketing performances which is the reason he just finds himself sidelined more often than somebody with his record should be. Somebody who has got almost 350 wickets can't be sidelined as regularly as he has been," he added.
Referring to Ashwin's exclusion from the playing XI against the West Indies, Gavaskar said, "He has also got to feel he has got the confidence of the people around him. When you don't have the confidence of people around you, when you keep getting sidelined then you try a little too hard".
The way Ashwin repaid his skipper's faith by picking wickets at crucial moments in the match compels one to sympathise with the off-spinner, who was not part of the playing XI in both the Tests against the West Indies.
Gavaskar also opined that comparing Ashwin to spinners from other countries whenever he plays outside India is not fair.
Ashwin had picked two wickets of opener Aiden Markram and Theunis de Bruyn on Day 2 of the match and added three more wickets to his tally on Friday to complete his fifer.
On Day 3, Ashwin got rid of South African skipper Faf du Plesis (55), wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock (111) and fast bowler Vernon Philander (0).
Playing his first international game in a while, Ashwin helped India break the South African resistance and finish day's play in commanding position.
At stumps on Day 3, riding on the centuries from Elgar and de Kock South Africa reached 385/8 and are trailing India by just 117 runs. Keshav Maharaj and Senuran Muthusamy were batting at three and 12 respectively.
(With IANS inputs)