Sunday, Nov 23, 2014

Asia Cup 2014 Quick Singles: Why is Cheteshwar Pujara still warming the bench?

Cheteshwar Pujara has played only two ODIs for India (File) Cheteshwar Pujara has played only two ODIs for India (File)
Written by Sahil Malhotra | New Delhi | Posted: March 5, 2014 8:52 pm

India beat Afghanistan in their last Asia Cup fixture, but a lot of questions went unanswered in India’s campaign.

The solid rock in the Indian Test line-up, Cheteshwar Pujara, is yet to become a regular feature in the ODI scheme of things. An outstanding Test average of around 60, with six hundreds and four fifties, is not enough to impress the men who matter. (Full Coverage: Asia Cup 2014)

On occasions, India are found wanting against a quality pace attack and lose control in the space of a couple of overs. Despite the shortest format – T20s – having a huge say on the way ODIs are played these days, the stability which a good Test player brings to the middle is a prized asset. And, India are in desperate need of some, especially in the middle order.

If we scan the Indian batting line-up, there is lack of stability. The batting line-up is extremely top heavy. It seems we are back in the 90s or early 2000s where “top gone, India gone” was the reputation the team had to live with.

They say failures teach you lessons. If India are waiting for another debacle, an overseas one, to give Pujara a long rope in the shorter format, then they are not doing justice to the talent he posseses.

What could have been done

At the toss, India skipper Virat Kohli said he wanted this side – the XI which played against Pakistan – to spend more time in the middle. Moments after the toss, when the producer switched to Sunil Gavaskar, who was doing the pre-match show, criticism poured, and poured like a drain out of control.

Gavaskar was livid with the team management. The decision to continue benching Pujara and Ishwar Pandey for the inconsequential tie baffled the former India skipper.

The shuffled batting line-up threw weight behind Gavaskar’s concerns.

If we had to promote Rahane, Karthik up the order, then why not Pujara? A good hit here would have done his ODI confidence a world of good. It is important to understand that a cricketer’s mental stability holds key to good performances, and the way Pujara is dealt with at the moment, it is doing no good to a quality player.

Is Mishra not encouraging enough?

The eternal tourist, Amit Mishra, fired all cylinders in his first chance after a long, or very long, wait on the bench.

It was only when lightning struck, and Kohli’s sense prevailed that the leggie got a game against arch-rivals Pakistan. Taking field after a long time, Mishra showed no out-of-touch signs, and turned the game around. Even in a modest chase, he forced Pakistan on to the back-foot and didn’t give many scoring opportunities.

If Pujara’s numbers continued…

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