Ashwin had been facing a race against time to be fit in time for the Sydney fixture but has now failed a late fitness test. The 32-year-old had picked up a side strain injury in the series opener at Adelaide and had subsequently missed the Tests at Perth and Melbourne.
This is the second overseas tour in a row that Ashwin has now not been able to finish due to injury issues. The spinner had missed a few Tests in England too after sustaining a similar injury.
India are on the cusp of a maiden Test series win on Australian soil after taking a 2-1 lead in the four-match series and Ashwin’s now almost certain unavailability for the Sydney clash will be a setback given its traditional assistance for spinners.
Skipper Virat Kohli has urged Ashwin to work harder on his fitness to prevent a repeat of the England and Australian tours.
“It’s unfortunate that he’s had two niggles that are quite similar in the last couple of away tours,” Kohli was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
“It’s something he will focus on to correct. The physio and trainer have spoken to him about what he has to do.
“He’s very important for sure. In Test cricket he’s a vital part of this team and we wanted him to be 100 percent fit for a longer period to that he can come back to us in the Test format. He is very disappointed that he’s not able to recover in time,” the India skipper continued.
Ravindra Jadeja will be expected to retain his spot in the playing XI with India also having the option of including wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav as a second spin option. Kohli, however, is keeping his cards closed and has talked up the part-time spin ability of Hanuma Vihari.
“The Ashwin factor, it does make you alter your plans a little bit. But Vihari was bowling beautiful whenever he got the ball,” the 29-year-old stated.
“(Hanuma) Vihari has looked like picking up a wicket every time he comes on to bowl. We are looking at him as a solid bowling option now, especially in this Test match,” he added.
Although Ashwin is not expected to play a part in Sydney any more, India have kept the option of picking him open by naming him in the 13-man squad for the Test.
India name 13-man squad for SCG Test: Virat Kohli (C), A Rahane (VC), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, C Pujara, H Vihari, R Pant, R Jadeja, K Yadav, R Ashwin, M Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav— BCCI (@BCCI) January 2, 2019
A decision on R Ashwin's availability will be taken on the morning of the Test #AUSvIND pic.twitter.com/4Lji2FExU8
The final Test between the two sides at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) will get underway on Thursday.
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