Former Pakistan spinner Saqlain Mushtaq has has he was surprised when India sideline Ravichandran Ashwin from limited-overs cricket. Ashwin continues to be India’s first-choice spinner in Test cricket when playing at home but hasn’t played white-ball cricket at the international stage since July 2017. Also Read - IPL 2021: Moeen Ali Was The Main Game-Changer For CSK - Parthiv Patel

In his stead, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have been preferred with selectors opting for more variety. Also Read - Mother's Day Special | Geeta Basra Speaks on Learning Not Just From Her Mom, But From Daughter Also

But Saqlain feels the fact that if Ashwin can take wickets in red-ball cricket which is the toughest format, makes him an automatic choice for the shorter versions. Also Read - Kuldeep Yadav's Exclusion is a Little Harsh: Aakash Chopra After Wrist Spinner Does Not Make India's WTC Final Squad

“Class is permanent whether you are a finger-spinner or wrist-spinner. Your skills, game reading abilities matter a lot. I was surprised when Ashwin was sidelined from one-day cricket,” Saqlain told PTI. “He knows how to get batsman out in the five-day game, which is much tougher than limited overs cricket. Anyone can do the containment job but someone who knows how take wickets can contain also. He knows both. How can you keep him out? You have to back your best players.”

Ashwin has played 77 Tests and taken 365 wickets at 25.43 including 27 five-wicket hauls. He has also played 111 ODIs and 46 T20Is and has taken a combined 202 wickets in them.

While Saqlain thinks Kuldeep and Yuzvendra have been impressive, they aren’t at the same level as Ashwin or Harbhajan Singh.

“They sidelined Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh) at the expense of Ashiwn back then. After Ashwin, you have tried many off-spinners but none of them has been of his class,” he said.

In recent times, the likes of Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi have advocated for the resumption of India-Pakistan bilateral cricketing ties. However, India legend Kapil Dev has rejected the idea saying unless the diplomatic relations between the two nations improve, there’s no question of playing cricket.

“What do you call sports persons? You call them heroes and what is their job? Their job is to do good deeds. Winning and losing is part of the game. Cricket is not war. That is why I feel cricket should be played between the two countries,” Saqlain backed his former teammates.

He continued, “To say that Pakistan cricket will suffer because of not playing India is the not right way to look at this. The bigger picture is that the game should be promoted on both sides. And if we do play, there is a possibility of relations improving.”

Saqlain was part of the Cricket All-Stars Series, a T20 exhibition tournament that took place in the United States in 2015. Recalling an incident from that tour, the 43-year-old said , “Sachin and Shane Warne had organised All Stars matches in America (in 2015). You won’t believe I saw a flag with colours of both India and Pakistan flags. An Indian and Pakistani were holding that together.”

“It brought the two nations closer. I would request the ICC too look into this. Financially also, it is a win-win for both BCCI and PCB. The series is much bigger than the Ashes,” Saqlain he added.