Chennai: 'Swimming' against the tide, former Australia cricketer Michael Hussey on Saturday said India should prefer veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin over Kuldeep Yadav in the upcoming Test series against England.
"I don't know what the selectors are thinking. Personally, I feel Ashwin should play ahead of Kuldeep. He has more than 300 Test wickets. Ashwin deserves his place in the starting XI," 'Mr Cricket', as he is fondly called, said.
Hussey's opinion is in contrary to the prevailing viewpoint of many experts, who have backed the 23-year-old chinaman bowler's selection in the Test squad for the five-match series.
"Ashwin against the left-handers could play a big role. Kuldeep has done brilliantly but I feel India should persist with Ashwin. Kuldeep is young and can learn along the way," Hussey, who is here as a Star Sports commentator for Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), said.
Asked if India could win the Test series, he said the team has a great chance.
"India is a good team playing good cricket. A lot of the players have been in England for a while, that is part of the battle. Getting used to the Duke balls, getting used to the pitches. It takes a while to get used to it," he said.
"One more advantage is that they are playing later in the summer. The pitches generally are a bit more flatter. Perhaps the spinners might come into play a bit more. The weather, which is currently dry and hot, that might play into India's hands as well. One of the keys is scoring big runs. That will put scoreboard pressure on England.
"England are a very good team in home conditions, they understand the conditions. They get a lot support from their crowds. I think India have some good support as well. It should be a fantastic series," the Australian, who was batting coach of IPL champions CSK, said.
When asked if veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad would have a big role in the series, he responded in the positive.
"Underestimate them at your own peril. Yes, better cricket may have been behind them but you still can't write off great players and they always come back and show their class. They always pose a threat. They are still fantastic competitors and will perhaps have a say in the way the series is played out," he said.
Hussey tipped India captain Virat Kohli to do well after facing a tough time during the previous tour to the country in 2014.
"The experience of last tour should help Virat Kohli. It's unfortunate that he couldn't play for Surrey due to an injury. He will be determined to do well this time. If he gets his confidence up and spends some time in the middle, he will be hard to stop."
The former batsman said India opener Murali Vijay has been preparing mentally for this series and expected him to do well.
"Vijay is motivated for this series. He has been preparing mentally for a long time. He is working hard on his game. He is willing to work things out for himself. I am watching his progress. He is a special guy and I like how he thinks about his game. He is important at the top for India," Hussey said.
Asked who could be India's key bowlers, he said they would feel the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, but expected the likes of Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami to step up.
"I would have said Bumrah but I didn't realise he was injured. Same with Bhuvneshwar... testing the depth a little bit. I have always been a fan of Umesh Yadav. I think he is getting to a stage where is getting a better understanding of his game. He did well in the IPL and can hopefully carry that form into the series.
"Mohammed Shami is also a very good bowler. He can have an impact as well if he can stay fit. I guess Ishant Sharma is there as well. They are all good bowlers, but they will miss the big two. It is going to be hard to replace the two," he added.
Hussey said England picking leg-spinner Adil Rashid for the Tests was a big gamble but backed him to do well.
"I guess he was not interested in playing the long form of the game at the beginning of the summer. It is a bit of a gamble I guess. He obviously had experience at this level before. Listening to a couple of his statements he has been making recently, he seems really switched on and keen to play."
Talking about Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Hussey said the CSK skipper lives in the moment.
"He doesn't worry about the future, that's for sure. He just lives in the moment, playing each game as it comes and gives the best he can. As a coach, there is not much I need to tell him. He understands his game so well. I just try and observe if there is something different.
"More often than not he likes a one-on-one chat. He doesn't like these team meetings. He just likes to be left to his own devices and prepare his way. He knows his game well and doesn't need too much coaching," he added.