After the Kanpur Test, India captain Virat Kohli had verified former chief selector Sandeep Patil’s revelation over Cheteshwar Pujara’s low strike-rate in West Indies. Two days later, at Eden Gardens, coach Anil Kumble seemed to have contradicted it. In fact, Kumble dismissed the strike-rate issue, saying that in Test cricket it’s only relevant for bowlers. “I’m a bit old fashioned. I know there’s a lot of strike-rate in the last eight years after the advent of T20. As far as I was concerned, when I was playing Test cricket, strike-rate was spoken about bowlers, not batsmen. That’s how I looked at it.
“In the team you need different characters, you need different quality players; you need different players with skill-sets that are suited to the challenges in a Test match. Because every session can be different in a Test match (and) we have seen that. And that’s the beauty of Test cricket. From my point of view, strike-rates are only relevant to bowlers in Test cricket, not the batsmen,” said Kumble.
Rewind to Green Park and what Kohli had said about Pujara’s slow going in the Caribbean. “In the West Indies, what we spoke about was the need for (upping the ante). Obviously he (Pujara) is someone who absorbs pressure really well, but after a certain stage in the innings there comes a time when the team needs a few runs in those situations and that’s where we felt that he has enough ability to capitalise. So it was just about conveying that to him. He has worked hard on his game. He scored at a good strike-rate in Duleep Trophy and even on this wicket he was (at times) scoring at a 65, almost 70, strike-rate, which for me was a revelation.”
In Kanpur, Pujara had scored 62 and 78 in India’s 197-run victory with strike-rates of 56.88 and 51.31 respectively. It was serious upgrade on his 27.43 strike-rate in West Indies, where he made 16 off 67 balls in the first Test and 46 off 159 in the second before being dropped. And Patil revealed to a news channel that the skipper and coach and selectors spoke to the Saurashtra batsman about stepping on the gas.
Patil has been slammed by BCCI president Anurag Thakur for letting out the secret and today Kumble said he was satisfied with Pujara’s batting in the Caribbean. “You need to bat based on situations. Even in the first Test (in West Indies), Vijay got out cheaply. He (Pujara) and Shikhar had (a) good partnership till lunch, which was crucial for the team as we went into lunch losing only one wicket. We all know the importance of first session of a series. So the relevance of Pujara is there. I’m extremely surprised and a bit disappointed this talk keeps coming up. As long as someone reads the situation and plays according to the situation it’s okay. He is a very important cog in our plans. He has been successful. I know that he will continue to be successful.”
Interestingly, Kohli had said at Green Park that the team management told Pujara to get out of the shell. He even complimented Pujara for not sticking to his comfort zone.