On the other hand, Ashwin was handed a comeback to the one-day series during the home series against Australia after all-rounder Axar Patel was ruled out due to injury. He also replaced the left-arm spinner in India’s 15-member 2023 World Cup squad after Axar failed to recover from a left quadriceps strain.
Speaking to Cricinfo, however, Harbhajan backed Ashwin over Kuldeep in India’s preferred playing XI for the World Cup. He picked Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami as the pacers. Sharing his thoughts on spinners, the former offie commented, “If you want a proven bowler, I would go with R Ashwin alongside Ravindra Jadeja.”
Elaborating on his reasons behind the choice, the former cricketer explained, "Yes, because Ashwin can bat as well. That's where you have to back your guy who has done it. If he doesn't, then you can have a guy who can come in and perform like Kuldeep.”
Harbhajan also expressed disappointment over Pakistan's spin bowling attack and opined that the quality of their slow bowling has gone down in recent years. He said, “Their [Pakistan] spin quality compared to your era has dipped big time.”
Harbhajan added that there was a time when Pakistan had the likes of Saqlain Mushtaq, Saeed Ajmal, and Shahid Afridi, but things are quite different now. He also stated that Shadab Khan looks out of form. “Of course. They used to have Saqlain Mushtaq, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi. They were big spinners. Shadab looks really good, but recently he is not bowling at his best. He is not looking to take those wickets. He is rather happy going for fifty and sixty runs and no wickets.
“When you have a mindset like that, as a spinner, you will not win games for your team. I believe their spin is not as strong as it used to be,” Harbhajan concluded.
Pakistan will begin their World Cup campaign with a match against Netherlands at the
Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on October 6.
--By A Cricket Correspondent