India have gone with four pacers and a specialist spinner in Ravindra Jadeja so far in the series but that could change in the fourth Test beginning here on Thursday.
“I believe the time is ripe for Ravichandran Ashwin to make his first appearance of the series. Traditionally, The Oval has thrown up some of the flattest pitches in England, and it has been no different this season.
“Three of Surrey’s five matches at home in the County Championship have ended indecisively, and ten hundreds have been registered in those games,” Karthik wrote in The Telegraph.
Karthik feels Ashwin’s versatility will help India at The Oval.
“If I was Virat Kohli, I’d like to bring a new dimension into play in this crucial Test. As Ashwin has shown in his storied career, he hasn’t necessarily relied on assistance from the surface to make an impact. England have two left-handers in their top three and three in the top seven.”
“The off-spinner’s record against lefties is second to none, and he is more than handy against the right-handers, who he tests with the knuckle ball and the floater that he has mastered through hours of diligent practice away from the harsh spotlight of the international game.”
Karthik, who will be playing in the upcoming IPL, said the conditions will suit Ashwin’s style of bowling.
“In Australia, Ashwin got excellent drift with the Kookaburra ball, getting it to curl away from the right-hander in the air and break back on pitching. That’s how he had Steve Smith caught at leg-slip in the second Test in Melbourne.
“He is equally comfortable switching to around the stumps and getting the ball to go away with the angle, a trick that netted him the prized scalps of Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, Australia’s two best batsmen.
“Like the Australian tracks, The Oval boasts bounce, which is Ashwin’s greatest ally away from home. He is willing to try to buy wickets because he is always focused on getting batsmen out,” Karthik wrote.
Skipper Virat Kohli can also open the bowling with Ashwin.
“One of Ashwin’s specialties is that he lets the ball hang in the air; because he has big fingers, he imparts a lot of revs, which makes him particularly venomous whilst bowling to the lefties.
“At Headingley, as early as day one Moeen Ali got the ball to turn off shallow footmarks during his brief spell to Ajinkya Rahane. What it reiterates is that England can aid turn if there is moisture, if the surface is a little damp.
“Ashwin is adept at bowling with a new or newish red ball, so Virat can use him even in the first hour if there is dampness to be exploited. As the match progresses, of course, Ashwin will become a more potent weapon,” added Karthik.