Ashwin set to play County cricket for Worcestershire

"It is a blessing in disguise for both Pujara and Ashwin because we will have a fully fledged tour of five Tests in England next year" - MSK Prasad © Getty

Ravichandran Ashwin, the spearhead of the Indian attack, is set to play for the Division 2 County side Worcestershire for the rest of the Championship season. He is expected to make his County debut against Gloucestershire at New Road in Division Two on August 28. Australia fast bowler John Hastings, who represents Worcestershire in the County circuit, was ruled out of the remainder of the season with a foot injury, and Ashwin slots in as a replacement for him.

The off-spinner, with 292 Test wickets to his name, hasn’t yet played domestic cricket in England. However, the ace spinner has now received the green signal from the board to represent Worcestershire in County cricket after the selectors decided to rest him for the ODIs against Sri Lanka.

Worcestershire still have four Division 2 matches left during the County season. So the veteran all-rounder could miss out on the upcoming ODI series against Australia scheduled to start on September 17 as he looks to acclimatise to the English conditions ahead of the Test series against England next year.

Meanwhile, Chesteshwar Pujara is also set to return to the Second Division County side, Nottinghamshire. The middle-order batsman has already scored 232 runs at an average of 44.60 for the County side this season. After playing the first half of the season, he was called up for national duty for the just-concluded Test series against Sri Lanka.

Both Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire are eyeing a promotion to Division One. Nottinghamshire have 184 points from 10 matches and are placed at the top of the table. On the other hand, Worcestershire have slotted in at second position with 149 points. Worcestershire last played in Division One in 2015 when they were relegated after ending the season as the bottom-placed team with 151 points.

“It is a blessing in disguise for both of them because we will have a fully fledged tour of five Tests in England next year,” MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors said.

“It is always good to play and get that first hand feel of the conditions. From a selection point of view they have been rested first and then they have been given consent by the BCCI to go and play county cricket,” he added.

Ashwin, in all likelihood, will play against his Indian team-mate, Pujara, when the Midlands County take on Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge on September 5. Worcestershire are also slated to play against Leicestershire and Durham.

Nawab of Pataudi snr (33 matches), Kapil Dev and Zaheer Khan (16 matches) are some of the famous Indian cricketers who have played for Worcestershire. Zaheer, the wily seamer, had a successful time at Worcestershire, bagging 78 first-class wickets for the County.

There were also reports that experienced pacer Ishant Sharma too was to ply his trade in England, turning out for Warwickshire. The fast bowler, however, clarified on Twitter that he hasn’t penned a contract with any County side. Warwickshire also have Jeetan Patel as their foreign player and were unlikely to sign up Ishant.