In a late twist that sent ripples of excitement through the cricketing world, Rajasthan Royals' off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been selected to represent Team India in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, replacing injured fellow teammate Axar Patel. The tournament, set to commence on October 5 in India, has garnered immense anticipation and fervour.

Final Team India squad: Rohit Sharma (c), Hardik Pandya (vc), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav.

Ashwin's inclusion, announced on Thursday evening, further boosts an already strong Indian squad that will be led by the experienced Rohit Sharma on home soil. Let's delve into this remarkable turn of events and what it means for both Ashwin and Team India.

The Call-Up:

Ashwin's journey to the World Cup squad was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. He missed out in the initial provisional squad announced by the BCCI, which also left cricket experts and fans surprised, given his experience in the 50-over format and the fact that India was missing expertise in the off-spin department. However, with fellow teammate Axar Patel's injury and him not able to recover in time opened the doors for the veteran Royals off-spinner. Incidentally, captain Rohit Sharma dropped a casual hint a few days ago, which left a lot of people curious in anticipation regarding Ashwin's late entry.

The Rajasthan Royals Connection:

Ashwin's selection in Team India's World Cup squad is further intriguing due to his recent association with the Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL). In the mega auction held for IPL 2022, Ashwin was picked up by the Royals, and it solidified our spin attack even more. During his two-year stint with the Royals, Ashwin worked extensively on his craft as an off-spinner as well as his batting ability that saw him play quite a few match-winning knocks, including scoring his maiden IPL fifty.

Impact on Team India:

Ashwin's addition adds a new dimension to Team India's World Cup squad. He brings with him a wealth of experience, having played in multiple World Cups and other international tournaments. He was part of India's 2011 World-Cup winning squad and the 2015 edition that saw him picking 13 wickets during India's journey to the semi-final. His ability to extract turn and control the game in the middle overs can be a game-changer in subcontinental conditions, which often favour spin bowlers. Ashwin recently displayed the same in the ODI series against Australia, where he picked 4 wickets in 2 matches, leaving the Aussie batters bewildered.

The 46-day long tournament also means that the pitches will start deteriorating further as the days go by, putting the Indian spinners in the driver's seat. Moreover, Ashwin's ability to contribute valuable runs down the order can be crucial in tight matches or during chase scenarios. His temperament and understanding of the game make him a valuable asset in high-pressure situations.

The Competition:

While Ashwin's inclusion is indeed a remarkable story of perseverance and talent, it also highlights the cut-throat competition for spots in the Indian cricket team. With a plethora of talented spinners and all-rounders vying for a place in the squad, the final selection becomes a delicate balancing act for the team management. Which is why, at the Royals, we continue to support our players through year-round developement camps that will help them sharpen their skills and display them on the international stage as they go on to represent their respective national teams.

India take on Australia in their World Cup campaign opener on October 8 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Check India's full schedule here.