Kohli said Ashwin aggravated his injury, which means he was not fully fit in the fourth Test
It was clear to those watching the Indian off-spinner bowl in the fourth Test in Southampton that Ashwin was not at his best. He struggled for rhythm and failed to land successive deliveries on the same spot. On a pitch that had significant footmarks and the ball exploded off the surface as the match wore on, Ashwin was comfortably outbowled by Moeen Ali who took nine wickets in the Test.
It was apparent Ashwin couldn’t complete his action with the same effort that he would normally put behind every ball. It was due to an injury he had picked up in the third Test which India won at Trent Bridge.
There, Ashwin went through the motions with his bowling but it didn’t hurt India as much as the batsmen had piled on the runs and the rest of the pace attack ensured a big win.
But with the series on the line in the fourth Test, India went ahead with Ashwin and paid a big price for it. Kohli’s admission of Ashwin aggravating his niggle and thus not being selected for the fifth Test is the second such instance this tour of India picking an unfit player for a decider.
In the third ODI against England at Leeds with the series 1-1, India decided to field seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar who had been struggling with a serious back injury for many months and was trying to work his way around it.
The management apparently wanted to test his match fitness before the Test series but it became clear that he was well off the mark as he barely touched 80mph and England chased down the target of 257 with 33 balls to spare.
The Indian team management’s plans when it comes to fitness management has been exposed this season with wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha the biggest casualty; the keeper went out with a finger fracture in the IPL and ended up with a long-term shoulder injury during rehab.
And with India fielding unfit players in England, the team management must answer some tough questions by the BCCI hierarchy.