He stands out like a sore thumb among India’s array of flashy strokemakers. But what Cheteshwar Pujara brings to the Indian is stability and reassurance.
He has a fine record in Test cricket. Yet he is the sacrificial lamb when it comes to selection of the playing eleven.
Only a team like India can think of dropping a batsman with more than 5,000 Test runs at an average of 50 from 65 Tests, including 16 centuries.
Unfortunately, he is not a Glamour Boy like some of the others in the Indian team and goes about his work steadily.
His purported weakness against the short ball is often used as a reason to drop him. His slow scoring is often highlighted and it has been said that it puts pressure on the other batsmen.
Hopefully, such balderdash has been put to rest after Pujara led India to victory in the Adelaide Test to give India a huge advantage in the series against Australia.
Pujara’s name must be put down second after captain Virat Kohli’s name while selecting the team.
Like Rahul Dravid, Pujara can play flexibly if needed. He has all the strokes to attack the bowlers but he only does that when the situation demands.
He was dropped in the first Test during the series against England when the team toured there. Subsequently he proved what a great player he was and India erred by dropping him. However, India lost a chance to get some direction at the start and lost miserably in the four-Test series.
Compare the dropping of Pujara to that of Rohit Sharma. It is getting clearer with every Test that Sharma doesn’t measure up to Test standards despite being a a great player in the shorter formats.
He has been given enough opportunities, even more than he deserves. But Sharma always lets the side down. He is a stylish stroke player but his temperament for playing a long innings is suspect.
Another player who is always under the pump when abroad is all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin. There are many critics who keep pointing out that Ashwin’s record abroad is not great.
Unfortunately, Indians are statistically minded and they keep blaming Ashwin and put undue pressure on him despite his great achievements.
Some may grumble that Ashwin did not bowl India to victory in Adelaide despite spinning conditions. Yet it was Ashwin who got rid of the dangerous batsmen in the Australian top order and also gave crucial support to Pujara.
India won and that is what matters. And it has been the bowlers and not so much as the batsmen who have prospered abroad recently. The fast men have combined well with the spinner/spinners and at Adelaide they took all 20 wickets.
It is the victory that matters and all the bowlers together delivered the goods and helped India to go one-up in the series.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.