Cheteshwar Pujara, who was among the top-order batsmen who failed to click in the five-Test series against England that India lost 1-3, has sought permission to play in the remainder of the English county season and will be allowed to do so by the Board.
“Pujara is not part of the ODI or T20 team now and is free to play. He sought my permission to play in county cricket and I have asked him to send me the details. I have decided to allow him to play,” BCCI Secretary Sanjay Patel told PTI from Vadodara.
“We have never said no to any player to play in county cricket if it does not clash with our domestic cricket like Ranji Trophy etc. If you remember we had allowed Gautam Gambhir to play in the English country cricket (in 2013 for Essex),” Patel said.
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Pujara, considered a Test specialist, and Virat Kohli were expected to be the bulwarks of the young Indian batting line-up, but failed to live up to their reputations in England, where conditions were conducive to swing bowling.
As a result, the team suffered three massive defeats – two of them by an innings – and squandered the series after taking a 1-0 lead at Lord’s, which hosted the second Test.
Pujara (26) tallied 222 runs in 10 innings with 55 as his highest score for a poor average of 22.20 in the series in which India were beaten inside three days in the last two Tests – losing both by an innings – to end the rubber on a dismal note.
Meanwhile, the Board has cracked the whip in the aftermath of the disastrous series by making changes in the support staff for the team for the five-match ODI series against England commencing next week.
Asked about these changes, Patel said “something had to be done. It’s not as if our boys are poor players.”
“We were discussing things over the last two weeks and yesterday I had a discussion with the (BCCI) President, Treasurer and Joint Secretary before deciding on the best course of action — to appoint Ravi Shastri as the team’s director,” said Patel.
“We were all very concerned. The team’s performance was disturbing. I first spoke to Shastri, then to the captain (Mahendra Singh Dhoni), the coach (Duncan Fletcher) and the two others (Bowling coach Joe Dawes and fielding coach Trevor Penney) and informed them about our decision,” Patel said.
The Board put Shastri in charge of the team’s affairs during the one-day series while retaining Fletcher as the chief coach and also asked the two assistant coaches to take a break during the five-game rubber commencing on August 25 at Bristol after a warm-up game on August 22 at Lord’s.
“As Director, it’s up to Shastri what to do and what not to do,” the BCCI Secretary maintained.
“In culmination of the discussions among all the office-bearers of the BCCI over the last couple of weeks, the BCCI has decided to avail the services of former India captain, Mr Ravi Shastri, to oversee and guide the Indian cricket team for the forthcoming one-day international matches against England,” a press release issued by the BCCI said.
“Mr. Duncan Fletcher will continue as Head Coach while Ravi Shastri will be the overall in-charge of Cricket affairs of the Indian Team.”
The support staff will have a more Indian look with Kings XI Punjab chief coach Sanjay Bangar, India U-19 coach Bharath Arun and colts fielding coach R Sridhar being roped in place of Dawes and Penney.
Asked about Shastri’s tenure as Team India Director, Patel said it will be “till the end of the series (which will go on till first week of September).”
“We will then have the reports of the captain, coach, manager and Shastri to discuss and then BCCI will decide on the future,” he added.