Cricket fans consider Cheteshwar Pujara to be the next Great Wall of India. But in hindsight, he could be much more than that. He may not possess the splendour in his shots as much of his contemporaries do, but he is certainly poised to be the one of India’s most consistent team players in both forms of the game. If only he could get a chance to play in ODIs! That precisely is the curious case that Pujara deserves a go in the ODI team, but apparently he doesn’t fit in the scheme of things. Flabbergasting!
Admittedly, India’s top order had been effective in the past year , if not the best in ODI’s, which made it difficult for Pujara to fit in. But the inadequacy of the top order made life difficult for team India against gutsy teams like SA and NZ. Admirably, Dhoni had pointed out sustaining the success of your first season is the hardest yard to cross in sport as your rivals value you more and thus look you up at your pros and cons. Top order’s weaknesses got found out which led to a flurry of low and slow scores. Rohit Sharma has been found out technically and only a miracle could turn his batting form thus warranting a change at the top.
Though Rahane is an opening batsman and did well in his lone Asia Cup outing at the top, Pujara seems the most apt to lead the batting order, more so with the World Cup being in Australia-NZ. He is adept at playing horizontal bat strokes and playing out good bowlers. You need someone like Pujara to provide the stability, sense of responsibility and urgency to the batting order.
In Test cricket, he has proved himself in pepping up the scoring tempo as well. And Pujara himself has expressed his interest in playing ODI cricket. He averages 55 in List A career and his quality to propel the strike rate has resulted in numerous double and triple hundreds in first class cricket. There is absolutely no reason to ignore him for the shorter format. His absence was clearly missed especially in the ODIs in South Africa. Kohli needs someone like Pujara at the other end when playing in testing conditions in ODIs too.
It’s important that Pujara is given a go in the ODI framework. Things are looking grim for the team and such inspired selections are the need of hour. The success of Amit Mishra in Asia Cup has provided much needed flexibility to the spin department and including Pujara could do the same in batting department. Sunil Gavaskar has been rightful in criticising team selection, as Pujara is a go-getter and expectedly will gobble up his place if given a go in the team which might replace one of the “favoured” players.
The following IPL has careers of many Indian batsmen on the line, as the IPL has become a known norm to shape selections for the international ODI team too. And it seems Pujara is one such batsman whose team selection can well be justified if he succeeds in the IPL.
Pujara will be getting chances at the top order for Kings XI Punjab and if he could a play an anchor role for them with a decent strike rate, he could cement his spot in the team. People are apprehensive whether Pujara would be able to score quickly in ODIs, IPL may well augment that dilemma. He needs to work at his hitting skills a bit , similar to what Michael Hussey did to his technique. It’s unfair to stereotype Pujara, but he has a golden upcoming chance to prove the current team selection wrong.
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