Washington Sundar was in the middle of his training for the Asian Games 2023 when he was called up by the Indian team as a replacement for Axar Patel in the Asia Cup 2023 final against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
From Bengaluru, Sundar, 24, travelled all the way to Colombo and found his place straightaway into the India playing 11. This is no coincidence, and he might be the ideal fit that India are looking for to replace Axar if he doesn't get the okay fitness report ahead of the all-important tournament.
What did Rohit Sharma say about Sundar replacing Axar Patel?
Rohit Sharma in his post-match press conference after the Asia Cup final clarified that Sundar is in the reckoning for the World Cup. He said, "With the spin-bowling all-rounders, I think everyone is in the line. Honestly, speaking to [Ravichandran] Ashwin as well, I have been talking to him on the phone. So he is very much in the line. So is Washi [Sundar]. We want those guys who can do the job with the ball and the bat as well.”
Rohit also answered why Sundar was the first choice for Team India when a replacement for Axar was sought for the Asia Cup final. "Washi was, honestly, that injury happened to Axar late in the night. We had to call a few guys to see where they are at. Washi was available and we had to get him to come and play the role,” said Rohit.
“Luckily, he was with the squad in the Asian Games in Bangalore, he was bowling, he was training, and he was cricket fit. So he was spending a lot of time on the field. We had to get him," the Indian captain added further.
Could Sundar be the ideal fit for Axar?
Much like Axar, Sundar bats left-handed, and India have been in a perennial search for left-handed batters who can bowl ever since the departure of Yuvraj Singh. Sundar, who made his India debut way back in 2017 against Sri Lanka, has matured into a serious cricketer. He has played 23 First-Class games and 70 List-A games. Apart from taking 66 wickets in the 50-over format, the Tamil Nadu cricketer also has a First-Class hundred to his name.
India have a left-arm leg-spinning Chinaman in Kuldeep Yadav, an orthodox left-arm spinner in Ravindra Jadeja, and thus an off-spinner, arguably the most effective weapon against big-hitting left-handers like Ben Stokes, David Warner, and David Miller, could end India's spin dilemma. Thus the injury to Axar might be a blessing in disguise for the Indian side and Sundar.
Sundar’s battle with injuries
Despite being a spinner, and that too an orthodox off-spinner, it is weird how Sundar has fallen prey to petty injuries ever since his arrival on the international scene. Sundar had to miss half of the IPL 2023 with a hamstring injury. Before that, the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) player also missed out on a few matches in the 2022 edition of the T20 league after hand injuries involving his wrist webbing.
In August 2022, during his County stint with Lancashire, the left-handed batter injured his shoulder while fielding. Earlier in February 2022, Sundar had missed the home series against Sri Lanka and West Indies due to a hamstring injury, having already missed the tour of South Africa earlier that year due to Covid-19.
In 2021, Sundar had to miss the second leg of the IPL due to a finger injury as well. He was then part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) set-up.
Sundar’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy: Rise to fame
It was one series that put players on the bench straightaway into the houses of the Indian fans. Suffering injuries, main players were mostly ruled out of India's Test series against Australia in 2020-21. Sundar, who hadn't even made his Test debut, was suddenly drafted into the Indian playing 11 as Ravichandran Ashwin’s replacement for the Gabba Test.
India had drawn the Sydney Test with great knocks from Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin. However, they were both ruled out, and Sundar played an amazing innings in the first innings, partnering Shardul Thakur for a 123-run stand for the seventh wicket. The left-handed batter scored 62. Add to that his four wickets, three in the first innings and one in the second, and Sundar was already one of the best contributors for India.
However, the icing on the cake was yet to come as he scored the most important 22 runs of his Test career so far in the fourth innings to guide India to a famous win.