Let us ask ourselves this question: why is Cheteshwar Pujara important in the Indian ODI squad when it tours abroad? The Indian team which has many stroke makers in the eleven, at times, doesn’t justify the way they play on foreign soil. Honestly speaking the team’s batting style doesn’t suit them when they play on bouncy and swinging tracks, which makes our batting weak. That is where we need a solid compact batsman in the middle order, one who can not only tackle the bounce and swing, but also play the perfect role of a grafter so that the other batsmen can play their natural game.
That batsman now in team India is Pujara. not only does he have the technique but also the capability to lend solidity to the middle order. The reason I am talking about Pujara is that he is a player who will get you enough boundaries and doesn’t get bogged down by the task of holding the wicket, which makes him a compact and reliable player.
Now that team India is touring New Zealand, where it would be very windy, and negating the swing would be a big challenge in those conditions, Cheteshwar Pujara would have been an ideal player in the midst of our stroke makers. Especially when an opening wicket falls in the initial overs, Pujara could have slowly but solidly do his job. As both our openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan are yet to be a proven success in swinging conditions, Pujara would have been an ideal foil, followed by Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni.
I think the selectors may have got it wrong in not taking Cheteshwar Pujara on such an important tour. Everybody knows how fragile the Indian batting can be in those conditions.
When you play in such conditions you need to adapt the older way of playing One Day Internationals, where even if you get 50 in the first 10 to 15 overs without loosing too many wickets, it is a good start and then you build on the start. with the New Zealand boundaries not too big, you can get 100 runs of the last 10 overs without much difficulty with the Indian batting.
That is precisely the role Rahul Dravid used to don and often held up one end till the slog overs. Even if Pujara gets 70 to 80 runs off 100 balls, it’s quite good considering the conditions. Now the question is, who is going to play the role of carrying the team without much fuss even if wickets fall? In my view that player would be very important and will be missed dearly when early wickets fall.
–Daniel Manohar [Daniel Manohar is a Sports Analyst with the Cricket Galaxy. In the past he has opened the batting for the Hyderabad team in Ranji Trohphy – India’s Domestic First Class Championship. He tweets here]