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R Ashwin's continued excellence in Test cricket for India has prompted questions about why he isn't part of the T20I side. Virat Kohli addressed them in a press conference four days ago, saying they already have an offspin-bowling allrounder Washington Sundar who was doing well and accommodating another would affect the balance of the XI adversely.
Ashwin himself isn't really fussed about the talk around his value in white-ball cricket. Speaking as a guest at the India Today Conclave 2021, he said he is enormously content with where his life is right now and that mindset has given him the confidence that if he does end up getting the call, he would put in "a game-breaking performance".
"A lot of times people tell these lines on leadership forums and dialogues and several motivational quotes where they say you need to compete with yourself," he said. "But I definitely believe I have found a balance and learnt in life about how I must be competing with myself and be at complete peace when I'm competing with myself because when some of these articles or questions get asked about my ODI return or T20 return, what is your ambition, are your white-ball dreams still there and all these things, I find those questions are really laughable.
"I am totally at peace and extremely happy with the kind of cricket and life I'm leading right now that given an opportunity I will make a game-breaking performance which I'm almost certain about because of the kind of space I find myself in. So what questions people have to ask, what opinions people have, I'm not worried about at all. As of now, every single day I play the game out there on the park, I want to leave a smile on everyone's face and mine, most importantly."
Ashwin has been India's leading bowler in Test cricket - especially at home - for several years. His performance against England - where he became the quickest in terms of balls bowled to 400 wickets - was crucial to the team securing a place in the World Test Championship final. The control he showed over his bowling prompted former India opener Gautam Gambhir to wonder on ESPNcricinfo about why he wasn't playing in other formats for India. "It's actually a shame that he hasn't played white-ball cricket for the last two years after winning what nine Man-of-the-Series awards [in Test cricket]," he said.
Kohli, for his part, defended the work his incumbent offspinner has been doing since his debut in 2017 - which is also the year when Ashwin last played a white-ball game.
"Washington has been doing really well for us, so you can't have two players of the same discipline playing in one squad," he said on the eve of the first T20I against England, "Unless, Washi has a drastically horrible season and things go south for him…the question has to be asked with some kind of logic as well. You suggest where you would add Ash and play him in the team when someone like Washington already does that job for the team. So, it's easy to ask the question but you should have a logical explanation to it yourself."
Sundar's performance in the second T20I, when India bounced back to level the series 1-1, drew the critics attention as well, where he showcased the ability to bowl anywhere in the innings, and to anyone in the England batting line-up. In an age where match-ups are everything, Sundar, turning the ball into two big-hitting right-handers, Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, dismissed them both to help India into a position from where they could push for victory.