Dubai, Oct 17: India captain Virat Kohli has backed senior spinner Ravichandran Ashwin's inclusion in India's squad for the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup 2021 saying the off-spinner has been rewarded for his improvement as a white-ball bowler and his courage against big-hitters.
Ashwin - who last played a white-ball game in 2017 - was included in the 15-man Indian squad for the showpiece event which will be held in Oman and the UAE. The senior tweaker's call-up in the T20I side came as a surprise to many, while interacting with the media persons at the ICC captain's press conference organised by the cricketing body, Kohli said the Tamil Nadu cricketer has bowled a lot of difficult overs in the last couple of years in the IPL.
"One thing that Ashwin has improved a lot is bowling with a lot of courage in white-ball cricket if you saw the last two years IPL, he has bowled the difficult overs and bowled against top players, the likes of Polly (Pollard) and power-hitters and not being shy to put the ball in right areas," he explained.
"Ashwin believed in his skill sets. He was bowling with variations and control over the pace and when he was at his confident best, these guys can go in there and change the game themselves," the 33-year-old added further.
The 2017 Champions Trophy witnessed a major shift in India's spin attack when the wrist spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav replaced the finger spin twins of Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Four years down the line the finger spinners are now in vogue and Kohli credited Ashwin for reviving the craft.
"Ashwin has been rewarded for reviving his white-ball skills and he was a regular feature for us back in the day then fell off a bit because wrist spinners were in demand mostly but now finger spinners with accuracy have come back in the game.
"I think we also have to evolve as a team and with evolving trend of the game, Ash and the likes of him and Jadeja, performing with a lot of courage augurs well for the team. You can also be very consistent as finger spinners and know what to do in what situations," a confident Kohli added.
While speaking about the selection of Rahul Chahar over Yuzvendra Chahal in the WC squad Kohli said the decision wasn't an easy one. Kohli admitted that dropping a proven performer like Chahal was a tough call but the Haryana leg-spinner's lack of pace off the surface on the slow UAE tracks tilted the scales in favour of the quicker Chahar.
"It was a challenging call but we decided to back Rahul Chahar for a reason that he has bowled amazingly well in the last couple of seasons and a guy who bowls with pace," Kohli said.
Rajasthan's Chahar, however, picked up 13 wickets from 11 games in IPL 2021 for Mumbai Indians and was benched during the end-stage. Chahal, with 18 wickets in 15 games, was the second-highest wicket-taker in the RCB team behind Harshal Patel's 32 scalps.
"Rahul did really well in Sri Lanka and against England at home as well. He was someone who bowled those difficult overs," he said and then explained the rationale.
"We believe getting into the tournament, wickets will be getting slower and slower. Guys who bowl with a lot more pace as you saw in the later stages of the tournament as well, were the ones who were able to trouble the batters and probably not give the ball too much air." These are strengths that make Chahar a wicket-taking candidate, he said.