IPL auctions for the past couple of years haven’t been a source of joy for Cheteshwar Pujara and the 28-year-old batsman was left visibly disappointed after last year’s auction as none of the teams opted to bid for him. However, later on he admitted that in the shorter format he needs to prove a point and it seems like this year he has a strong case.
Of late, Pujara has been gaining power in his batting. This is visible as he now plays more number of lofted shots and scores much more freely. His aggressive attitude of taking the attack to the bowlers is something which he has added to his game. A testament of this was seen in second innings of the one-off Test against Bangladesh where Pujara slammed an unbeaten 54 off 58 balls with a strike rate of over 90. Also, in the first innings of the same Test he played a good knock of 83 runs wherein he hit nine boundaries. In the series against England, Pujara averaged a healthy 50.12 and had a decent strike rate of 52.97.
But this is not enough for the IPL where big hitters with massive strike rates are considered a valuable asset. Pujara last took part in the IPL in 2014 where he played for the Kings XI Punjab. He has also featured for the Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore but never managed to cement his place in either team. Being labelled as a ‘Test match specialist’ seemingly hampered his chances of getting picked by a franchise in the IPL. His shots too were deemed to have been better suited for the longer format of the game.
However, what will work in his favour this time around is the good form he has shown in the shorter format for Saurashtra. He also scored a T20 century in the DY Patil Tournament. However, opportunities on the international arena have been limited for him as he has played just five ODIs and not a single T20 International.
His IPL career average of 20 might not be good but a strike rate of 99.74 is not bad either. Though this does not guarantee him a place in any squad but if teams are looking to secure some stability at the top of the order, Pujara is definitely a good bet.