‘Pujara an important cog in our wheel’

India

India coach Anil Kumble has backed batsman Cheteshwar Pujara to keep his place in the side, saying that the ‘sword’ constantly hanging over the number three’s head does more harm than good.

Pujara played in three of the four Tests on the recent West Indies tour, making scores of 46 and 16 and dropped for the third Test. He last scored a century in August last year, and only one half ton since then.

But the coach is sure that Pujara will get runs if persisted with, and that dropping him will not solve the problem, even if Rohit sharma is added to the line up, as they’re very different batsmen.

Kumble told ESPNcricinfo: “With modern cricket, everybody looks at the strike rate rather than what that particular player brings to that table.

“Pujara is a very important cog in our wheel and when he plays at No. 3, he is a very important player. Yes, there are times when he misses out and Rohit comes in.

“That’s when we probably feel we need someone lower down to accelerate. That’s why in one of the Tests in West Indies, he missed out.

“The one good thing about this team is that all 17 who were in the squad were all available to play and all of them show that intent.

“If they are playing, they are fine. When they are left out, yes, they are disappointed, but at the same time, they contribute in whatever way they can.

” Pujara, yes, the sword is always hanging on his head, which is not good.

“I certainly believe he is a very important player for us and he will play at No. 3, and for us to be successful, he is important to us in the short term and long term as well.”

The pressure on Pujara and the rest of the top order has been lightened recently by the rise of spinner Ravi Ashwin as a batsman. He is a genuine all-rounder now, having scored two tons in the West Indies, batting at six.

Kumble added: “Obviously, Ashwin has shown in the past what he’s capable of as a batsman. Saha was batting at six and we felt that the pressure that he was getting under wasn’t ideal for him.

“Someone like Ashwin can take that pressure off and then Saha can bat freely, and Ashwin has shown what he’s capable of. He’s scored two hundreds and made his mark at No. 6 whenever we played five bowlers.”

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