New Delhi: Pakistan spin great Saqlain Mushtaq fails to understand how a proven performer like Ravichandran Ashwin has been kept out of India's limited-overs set-up, saying a successful Test bowler is bound to succeed in shorter formats.
Ashwin, a regular in the IPL, has been kept out of the shorter formats since July 2017. Same was the case with Ravindra Jadeja but he is back playing all three formats, largely because of his all-round abilities.
"Class is permanent whether you are a finger-spinner or wrist-spinner. Your skills, game reading abilities matter a lot. I was surprised when Ashwin was sidelined from one-day cricket," Saqlain, the inventor of 'Doosra', told PTI.
"He knows how to get batsmen out in the five-day game, which is much tougher than in limited overs cricket. Anyone can do the containment job but someone who knows how to take wickets can contain also. He knows both. How can you keep him out? You have to back your best players."
Seeking more variety, the selectors had opted for wrist-spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal after the 2017 Champions Trophy. They both have established themselves in limited overs cricket but have not featured in the eleven together since the 2019 World Cup.
Though Ashwin remains India's number one spinner at home, he is not a sure starter in overseas Tests. He was benched for the two-Test series in the West Indies last year, drawing a lot of attention and more recently, played a Test in New Zealand in the two-match series with Jadeja playing the other one.
"They sidelined Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh) at the expense of Ashiwn back then. After Ashwin, you have tried many off-spinners but none of them has been of his class.
"In fact, I was surprised when a great spinner like Bhajji was dropped. Both Ashwin and Bhajji have different styles and could have easily played together in the playing eleven. If two right-hand pacers can play regularly, why not spinners?" asked Saqlain.
"Such was Bhajji's class that he could have easily taken 700 Test wickets (ended at 413 wickets in 103 Tests," he said referring to Harbhajan, who is in the twilight of his career and plays only in the IPL.
Saqlain was part of a world-class bowling attack but now Pakistan doesn't have spinners of his pedigree. The 43-year old feels India, who are much stronger than Pakistan at the moment unlike his times, still possess quality spinners despite the departure of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan.
"The spinners you have are pretty good, actually. Kuldeep has been impressive, Ashwin and Jadeja have been doing well consistently. They are world-class bowlers. In fact Pakistan is struggling a bit on that front. Yasir Shah has done well but his form has dipped recently. Shadab is still a work in progress.
"I am pretty confident that Ashwin and Jadeja will end up playing 100 Tests each," said Saqlain.