By Devarchit Varma
South Africa made no bones about the fact that they intend to numb the Indian batsmen early in the tour with lethal pace — evident from the inclusion of six fast bowlers. It took as many as 16 balls for the Indian batsmen to touch a Dale Steyn delivery at the Wanderers on Thursday evening. For all practical purposes, Steyn had done copious psychological damage in those initial overs to leave no one in doubt about the outcome of the match. It was frightening stuff, the effects of which percolated down the Indian ranks and probably will have a huge bearing on the rest of the tour.
The team clearly needs a batsman who has the stomach and the technique to counter the unrelenting 140-145 kmph pace from both ends. A team that has a preponderance of extravagant stroke makers needed someone who would grow roots at one end and blunt the pace of the South African battery, and act as a calming influence. Cheteshwar Pujara was the man for the job. It’s a pity that the selectors don’t see him beyond Test cricket.
There’s always a question mark over Suresh Raina against the fast, rising balls on wickets that has juice for the fast bowlers. An ageing Yuvraj Singh is not the player he was at his pomp. The Indian team is already short of men like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar who brought stability to the middle-order.
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Under the circumstances, it makes eminent sense to give the classy Pujara a meaningfully long run, so that he provides Team India the comfort that Dravid and Tendulkar provided when it’s ready to defend the World Cup Down Under in 2015.
Rhe Sandeep Patil-chaired selection committee has taken some bold decisions that have paid the team rich dividends. Let’s hope the committee soon finds a place for the Cheteshwar Pujara — a batsman who could make a significant impact to the Indian line-up.
(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)