'I'm close to full fitness' - Ashwin
R Ashwin, India's No. 1 spinner, has said he is close to full fitness, which should come as relief to the team after losing both the T20I and ODI series to South Africa.
"I'm close to full fitness and I'm confident of bowling well in the Test series," Ashwin said at a promotional event in Chennai.
Ashwin strained his side during the first ODI, played in Kanpur. When he pulled out of that game, his figures read 4.4-0-14-1 and had dragged India back into the contest after a fiery South Africa start. India missed Ashwin throughout the series.
Over the last few seasons, India's home Test cricket has gone back to revolving around spinners, especially with the whitewash of Australia in 2012-13. Ashwin was also Man of the Series in India's last Test series, in Sri Lanka in August. He will be India's main weapon against a side that has a well-earned reputation of being the best travellers in world cricket.
Ashwin's fitness becomes more important considering the uncertainty around legspinner Amit Mishra, who has been booked by Bangalore Police for an alleged assault on a woman. Mishra remains free to travel and should be eligible for selection, but it is unknown yet how the BCCI sees this. Or indeed what kind of mental space Mishra will be in should he play the Mohali Test in nine days time. The third spinner in the squad is Ravindra Jadeja, who returned for the South Africa Tests after being dropped for the recent tours of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
About India's performance in the ODIs, Ashwin said, "Ours is a relatively inexperienced side. We have just a few players who have played 100-odd games. We need to give some cushion and time to this side. They have players like AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis who are very experienced players. We knew it was going to be hard-fought series. Had the last over in Kanpur gone our way, the result could have been different."