India's bowling coach Bharat Arun on Tuesday quashed suggestions that off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin's one-day career is on the downswing, saying the latter remains a vital cog in the national squad.
The 30-year-old, who is ranked second in Tests, has found it difficult to sustain a similar ranking in the limited-overs format.
Ashwin's dip in form in ODIs has led many to suggest that it could be an end of the road for the off-spinner, who has played 15 of India's 37 ODIs since the 2015 World Cup.
However, Arun, who was speaking on the sidelines of India's optional practice session, considered Ashwin to be a very talented and skillful bowler.
"He is an extremely talented bowler, and even if you look at his last ODI which he played in the West Indies, he got 3 for 28. Ashwin is very, very skillful," Arun said.
India, who will play second ODI against Sri Lanka on Thursday in Pallekele, had earlier left Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for the ongoing five-match series due to the Board of Control for Cricket in India's rotation policy.
Arun admitted that although they want to give a lot of opportunities to other bowlers, Ashwin still remains an important part of the ODI side.
"I don't want to look at what has happened so far. But definitely yes Ashwin is also part of the ODI team we are looking at. We would also like to give a lot of opportunities to other bowlers, and then we have a long-term plan in place. After that, we'll take a call," the bowling coach said.
Besides Ashwin and Jadeja, Shardul Thakur has also been rested for the ODI series, with frontline pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah leading the attack. Meanwhile, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami were dropped for the Test series, which India went on to clinch by 3-0.
With India all set to tour South Africa, England and Australia next year, Arun insisted that it is important to manage the workload of the bowlers so that they could perform at their menacing best.
"It is important that we monitor the workload of the bowlers. So it's not only in practice but also what they do in the matches you take into account. You keep their workloads to an ideal so that they are in an ideal performance state all the time. That's the key to doing it," he said.
Asserting that injury is a part and parcel of fast bowling, the bowling coach said that their side are focussing heavily on their fitness so that the bowlers continue to perform well and remain injury-free for a longer period of time.
"Injury is an inherent part of fast bowling and yes there were quite a few bowlers who were injured. But we have a great support system. I guess 50 percent of fast bowling depends on your fitness and the other 50 percent is skill. So, to bowl fast over a period of time, you have to be extremely fit. That's one thing which we are emphasizing on," Arun said.