Having been left out of India's XI for the WTC final against Australia despite being the No. 1 Test bowler in the world, R Ashwin looks at it as a "stumbling block" in his career and not a "setback". Ashwin's omission by India, who chose to play four quick bowlers and a spinner in Ravindra Jadeja, triggered a debate especially after they lost by 209 runs at The Oval, which is one of the more spin-friendly pitches in England.
"For me, it's not a setback," Ashwin told the Indian Express and Hindu. "It's just a stumbling block, I'll move on because I have gone through that. When somebody knocks you down for the first time, you have a knee-jerk reaction. I think you should be knocked down once in a while along your life so that you are used to it and will know how to bounce back. That's what life is. Whether you are at your peak or not, it is still a setback. The fact that you need to learn how to deal with it is very important.
"I would have loved to play because I have played a part in us getting there. Even in the last final I got four wickets and bowled really well. Ever since 2018-19, my bowling overseas has been fantastic and I have managed to win games for the team. I am looking at it as a captain or coach and I'm just talking in hindsight, in their defence. So the last time when we were in England, it was 2-2 with a drawn Test and they would have felt four pacers and one spinner is the combination in England. That is what they might have thought going into the final. The problem is for a spinner to come into play, it must be the fourth innings. The fourth innings is a very crucial facet and for us to be able to put that amount of runs so the spinner can come into play, it's completely a mindset thing.
"To look inwards and say 'okay, somebody is judging me' is foolishness. I think I'm not at the stage of my career to think what others are thinking of me. I know what I am capable of. If I'm not good at something, I'll be my first best critic. And I will work on it and I'm not someone who will sit on my laurels. I've never been made that way. So to think of who's judging me is immaterial."
Much of the pre-match debate on team combination centred around whether India should play Ashwin or not, and there were a lot of opinions - from both experts and on social media - once he was left out of the XI.
Ashwin last played a Test in England in 2021, the first WTC final, against New Zealand in Southampton. He took two wickets in each innings to finish with match figures of 4 for 45 from 25 overs, including ten maidens.
Overall, he has featured in seven Tests in England, taking 18 wickets in 11 innings at an average of 28.11. However, when India last played a Test series in England, he was benched for all five Tests, of which four were played in 2021 and the last one in 2022, as India opted for four quick bowlers and one spinner.
For the WTC final this time, Ashwin said he knew about his omission 48 hours before the game started, but he said he is a lot more "chilled" and "relaxed" at this stage of his life and career.
"I'm a lot more chilled than I used to be," he said. "A lot more relaxed in my life than I ever have been. Sitting here today, I realise how much of a toll it had taken on me mentally to the point where I was traumatised. But I am very glad to have come through that and discovered a new me.
"A lot of people marketed me and positioned me that I am an overthinker. A person who will get 15-20 matches on the go doesn't have to be mentally overthinking. A person who knows that they will get only two games will be traumatised and will be overthinking because it's my job. It's my journey. So this is what suits me."