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Both, Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara have a point to prove in this IPL. And their contrasting styles in batting makes for an interesting watch as well, highlights Nishad Pai Vaidya.
Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara make a contrasting opening pair for the Kings XI Punjab at the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014. Not only are their styles different, but their ambitions and endeavours for the near future are distinct. On the one hand you have a veteran trying to show that there still is fire in the belly, whereas on the other, there is a youngster who is determined to shed the stereotype of being a Test specialist. Thus, it makes an interesting viewing when both bat, trying to prove their point.
Pujara is the most solid Indian batsman and his record in Test and First-Class cricket is testimony to that. In the age where T20 cricket has taken the world by storm, Pujara is a different breed who upholds the virtues of the copybook and plays classical shots. To back that, he has steely determination that helps him score big. He may not be able to score as fast as some of the other batsmen, but there is no doubting the fact that he can dominate a bowling attack. His List A average shows how consistent he is and yet, a One-Day spot has been elusive.
During the last few months, Pujara had said that he was also practicing his bowling to add value to the one-day side. That shows that he does want to don the blue jersey and perhaps sees this IPL as an opportunity. Opening the batting gives him a good chance to express himself. However, will it be good enough for T20 cricket? His pace of scoring runs may help him in One-Day Internationals (ODIs), but he may find it difficult in T20s.
Pujara seems to be at his best when he is playing natural cricket shots. He can innovate, as he said during an interview with this writer in 2012, but you expect that calming influence from him. That is where, he has done well to take a leaf from Jacques Kallis’ book. He did say, “I cannot be flamboyant like [Glenn] Maxwell or [David] Miller, but I can always be a Jacques Kallis who plays proper cricketing shots, but can still score runs at a good strike rate. This is what I am looking for.” Kallis almost won an Orange Cap once and has reinvented himself without changing his basics for the format. That is one role Pujara can play in this Punjab setup.
Moving to the other end, Sehwag has looked in decent touch during the last two innings. While Pujara is someone who will watch the ball closely and play with good measure, Sehwag will attack if he sees the ball in his zone. The hand-eye co-ordination may not be at its best at the age of 35, but Sehwag can still dazzle in the format. Whether it is good enough to help him get back into the international circuit is to be seen later, but for now he can help Punjab.
There were a couple of shots that showed that Sehwag is seeing it well. Against Kolkata Knight Riders, he smashed one over the infield into the off-side for four and later swept Sunil Narine across the line for six. But, there were times when deliveries on directed at his body troubled him. At his best, he may have flicked it with that typical wrist-work. However, his job in this IPL may be to provide those flashy starts with Pujara staying through the innings and giving it direction. They may not be expecting the big scores and may have given him the license to thrill. In the process, Sehwag may actually unleash a biggie or two. However, for real consistency with that attacking touch, Punjab would bank on David Miller and Glenn Maxwell down the order.
Punjab have shown that they are the side to beat as their batting dominated in the first three games. And when the batting failed, the bowlers rose to the occasion and defended a low score. Time for the openers to come to the party in full swing.
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