The likelihood of Axar Patel facing exclusion from India’s provisional 15-member squad for the 2023 World Cup is growing, with the possibility of R Ashwin stepping in as his replacement in the World Cup squad.

Axar Patel sustained a left quadriceps strain injury during the 2023 Asia Cup, which resulted in his absence from both the Asia Cup final and the ongoing three ODIs against Australia. During this period, R Ashwin made a comeback and delivered two impressive performances.

In the high-scoring ODIs held in Mohali and Indore, R Ashwin recorded figures of 1/47 and 3/41, which included crucial dismissals such as David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne (twice), and Josh Inglis. Ashwin’s ability to claim these wickets using his skillful variations likely indicated to the team management and selectors that he has regained his form in white-ball cricket.

Given that Axar Patel serves as a backup to Ravindra Jadeja, and it’s improbable for both to feature in the same XI during the World Cup, Ashwin’s inclusion provides the team with the option of an off-spinner who can contribute with the bat as well. This makes a strong case for his selection.

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Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar believes that if Axar Patel is not fit by September 28, which is the deadline for teams to announce their final World Cup squads, R Ashwin is highly likely to be included.

Gavaskar commended R Ashwin’s performances in the initial two ODIs against Australia, particularly highlighting his exceptional bowling in the closing overs in Mohali and his effective use of the carrom ball in Indore. He emphasized that if there are any doubts regarding Axar Patel’s fitness, Ashwin stands a good chance of making a comeback to the team, as the team management prioritizes having a fully fit squad for the World Cup.