India head coach Ravi Shastri has revealed why India have picked Ravindra Jadeja, rather than R Ashwin, as their lone spinner in the two Tests against West Indies. Shastri admitted it was difficult to leave a "world-class" bowler like Ashwin on the bench, but pointed to various attributes that gave Jadeja the edge.
Chiefly, he said India's team management had felt Jadeja's pace through the air would have made him difficult to face on a damp Antigua pitch in case India needed to bowl first.
"Jaddu's record is fabulous," Shastri said, speaking to the former England offspinner Graeme Swann, who is part of the Sony Pictures commentary team. "You have to see what he brings to the table. He's arguably the best fielder in the world now. He's improved his batting like hell. And if you see these tracks, I don't think there will be much on offer for the spinner, so you would need control.
"The reason why we picked Jadeja in the first Test was, in case we fielded and the track was damp, with his pace he would have made life a little awkward for the batsmen. He could have been used even on day one in the first session of play.
"But it's tough - to keep a world-class guy like Ash out, and then there's Kuldeep [Yadav] in the wings. Never easy. For that matter, in the batting line-up, to keep someone like Rohit Sharma on the sidelines, especially on the back of five hundreds in the World Cup and some very good form that he's carrying, it's tough."
As it happened, West Indies chose to bowl first in Antigua. Jadeja played a key role with the bat, coming in at 189 for 6 in the first innings and scoring 58 to help haul India to a competitive total of 297. That innings continued a rich vein of batting form in Test cricket, where he has averaged 41.80, with a century and ten fifties, since the start of 2016.
Jadeja wasn't required to put in too much of a shift with the ball in Antigua, as the fast bowlers led the way in bowling India to a 318-run victory. The fast-bowling combination of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami has been a vital part of India's recent successes, and Shastri said having bowlers capable of taking 20 wickets in any conditions narrowed the gap between home and away Tests.
"[India bowling coach] Bharat Arun has seen a lot of these guys from a very young age," Shastri said. "Our endeavour was to get a really good bowling attack in place that could take us 20 wickets anywhere. Once you have a good bowling attack that can take 20 wickets anywhere, then no game is an away game. Every game is a home game. It doesn't matter what the pitch is, you have the ammunition.
"These three fast bowlers complement each other beautifully. One's tall (Ishant), Bumrah has the most awkward action yet gets the ball to swing both ways, and Shami is someone who presents the seam better than [most]. The only other guy I know who presents the seam in that fashion is Jimmy Anderson. You've got variety there, plus you've got spin - you've got Kuldeep, Ash, Jadeja, and there are two or three more in the ranks, which is good."