Cheteshwar Pujara is a solid batsman and many have vouched for his inclusion into the Indian One-Day International (ODI) line-up to add stability. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes that there isn’t a place in the top order for him now as Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan have firmly held their spot. Thus, the Saurashtra batsman would have to wait for the odd opportunity to make a mark.
Dale Steyn and Co. ruthlessly put an end to India’s magnificent winning streak in One-Day International (ODI) series in 2013 with a display that stunned their batsmen. India’s top three comprising Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have scored the bulk of India’s runs and have taken a lot of the pressure off the lower order. Even when they faced daunting totals, the trio was instrumental in scripting heists previously unimagined. As discussed in a previous article, the tour to South Africa has been a rude awakening so far, but there isn’t a reason to panic.
When one looks at the Indian batting, there is a lot of talk about the form of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina. The two southpaws haven’t had the best of times in the middle order. During the Australia series, there was some debate about the No 4 spot with Raina being preferred to Yuvraj before the latter took over. However, they haven’t been very convincing. Touted as the finishers, they haven’t been in the best of touch.
That increased calls to include Cheteshwar Pujara in the batting line-up to add stability. Pujara has a solid technique and sound temperament. He has the ability to hold the innings together and build an innings around him. While he has been unfortunately labelled a Test specialist, his List A record suggests that he can score at a good clip. He did make his ODI debut against Zimbabwe this year, but did not make much of an impression. Nevertheless, he has to stay in India’s plans for the future. But, where would he fit into the line-up?
Although Yuvraj and Raina aren’t in very good form, they are proven finishers and dropping them may not be easy. They are flamboyant and flashy and can turn the game on its head single-handedly. Yes, there is a Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the middle, who can be a good dasher himself, but he has more of a calming influence on the line-up. Thus, in Yuvraj and Raina, they are looking for players who turn it on in the middle overs. If Pujara has to come in, he would have to be drafted at the top where he can play the long innings. However, the top three spots have been taken and they cannot be replaced.
For now, it seems Pujara may not find a spot at the top of the order in crucial games. But, the Indian team management must groom him for one-day cricket, as he can be an asset in the format. If he has to remain a part of India’s plans before the ICC World Cup 2015, he has to be given a fair share of games.
Ideally, he should have played against England in early 2013. Now, he has to wait for the odd opportunity that may come in inconsequential games.
In a nutshell, it isn’t Pujara who would challenge Yuvraj and Raina for their spots as he is a top-order batsman. If the two southpaws would be under pressure, it would an Ambati Rayudu who may challenge them first-up.
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