Kohli said Ashwin has filled in the void left by the injured Ravindra Jadeja in an outstanding manner.
After their setback in Centurion, the hosts South Africa bounced back strongly in the second Test at Wanderers to chase down a tricky 240 and level the three-match series at 1-1.
“Jadeja’s value everyone understands and what he has done for the team, but I think Ash has been playing that role pretty well for us,” Kohli said on the eve of the third and final Test here.
“Ash knows that his game has come forward by leaps and bounds especially bowling overseas. He understands that himself from Australia onwards.”
Ashwin played a stellar knock of 46 from 50 balls and was the team’s second highest scorer, after stand-in skipper KL Rahul‘s 50, as India managed 202 all out in the first innings of the second Test.
While Ashwin returned wicket-less in the first innings, the off-spinner bagged 1/26 from his 11.4 overs in South Africa’s second essay, as they hosts secured a seven-wicket win to restore parity.
“If you look at his batting contribution in the last Test and the way he bowled in the second innings I think that’s an outstanding contribution to the team.
“He’s in a very comfortable space where he’s willing to contribute to the team and he’s doing so in the right intention, in the right way,” Kohli said, giving full support the senior player.
Jadeja had suffered a right forearm injury during the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur and after undergoing scans, he was diagnosed with a swelling on his forearm that ruled him out of the South Africa tour.
Kohli said it does not really matter to him when he has either Ashwin or Jadeja at his disposal.
“When you have these two quality cricketers one or the other it really doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, Jadeja has had an injury.
“But Ash has obviously done the job in his absence and we have full faith that Ash can continue to play that role of spinning all-rounder for us in any condition that we play,” he asserted.
Kohli was ruled out of the first Test because of a sore back and in his absence KL Rahul stepped in to lead the team.
The selectors had made Rahul Kohli’s deputy for the tour, keeping mind Ajinkya Rahane’s indifferent form and to groom the Bengaluru player as future India captain.
KL is a balanced captain
Giving his take on his Rahul’s leadership, Kohli said he had a balanced approach but the Proteas outplayed India with their superlative chase
“He (Rahul) has handled it in a balanced way. What I saw from his plans and field placements that he tried his best to get wickets and breakthroughs in the second innings.
“But the situation was such that South Africa played well to chase the runs. I don’t thing anything much could have done.”
Rahul was smart with his decisions but he certainly missed Kohli’s on-field aggression.
“Everyone has different styles in captaincy. I would have done a bit differently too but the intent would have been to get the wickets. I think he worked in a balance manner,” Kohli concluded.