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Amol Muzumdar (left) has high hopes of KL Rahul (top right) and Cheteshwar Pujara © Getty Images and Sudatta Mukherjee

In an exclusive interview with CricketCountry‘s Shiamak Unwalla, former Mumbai cricketer Amol Muzumdar hailed KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara for their abilities. Muzumdar urged that Rahul should be persisted with despite his apparent shortcomings, while also saying that Pujara is definitely one for the future. Speaking at the launch of former Indian opener Aakash Chopra’s latest book The Insider, Muzumdar said that Rahul should not be judged too harshly at this point despite his inconsistency. Rahul has scored two Test centuries from five Tests, but has failed to reach double figures in every other innings he has played barring one. READ: Amol Muzumdar – a career timeline

“It is too early in [Rahul’s] career, just five Test matches. He needs to be given a bit of space, a bit of time. I am sure he will develop into a very good cricketer. I have watched him in domestic cricket, and I think he is one of the best finds of the last two years. He is someone who has solid defence and an appetite for big runs, but he also does not shy away from scoring quickly. That is a rare combination nowadays…He has two Test hundreds in five matches, so you have to give some credit to that,” said Muzumdar. READ: Amol Muzumdar records highest-ever score by batsman making his debut in First-Class

Speaking about Rahul’s unpredictable fielding, Muzumdar was again sympathetic. “We are in a day and age when every minor blip is being assessed and reassessed, criticised and appreciated. These kinds of things have happened before. I am sure some of the greats have also dropped a few catches early in their careers. He just needs a bit of space, and I am sure he will turn out to be a very fine cricketer.” READ: KL Rahul has talent, but lacks the consistency needed for Test cricket

Muzumdar went on to talk about Rahul’s slip fielding. “I am sure once he gets a hang of Test cricket and once he knows that he belongs in international cricket, in the Indian team, he will turn out to be an exceptional fielder. We have seen a couple of brilliant catches from him as well. He has got the skill, it is just a question of a bit of time.” READ: KL Rahul could do a Rahul Dravid and help balance the side by keeping wickets for India

When asked about whether or not Muzumdar sees Pujara as India’s specialist No. 3 in Tests, the former Mumbai cricketer said that he was of the opinion that bracketing players in specific slots was not the right way to go about things. READ: Cheteshwar Pujara emulates Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sunil Gavaskar in India vs Sri Lanka, 3rd Test

“We are too obsessed with numbers, ‘somebody needs to bat at No. 3 or 4 or 5.’ In international cricket if you are building a strong team for the future, then you need to adapt to certain match situations. Nobody knew two months ago that Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan would be injured, and that Pujara would have to open. There comes a time when sometimes you have to adjust for the team.” READ: Cheteshwar Pujara’s century could push Rohit Sharma out

Pujara made a comeback to the Indian side with an unbeaten 145 as opener in the deciding third Test against Sri Lanka in the recently-concluded Test series. He became only the fourth Indian opener to carry his bat in the process. READ: India finally break their shackles with historic series win against Sri Lanka

Muzumdar was clear that he saw Pujara in the scheme of things for India. “He is a guy for the future, especially in Test cricket. He is a guy around whom the team can revolve. There are a lot of stroke-makers in the Indian side, and not many who can play the sheet anchor’s role. With Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, and Pujara you have a great mix with stroke-players like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dhawan, and Vijay.” READ: Have India finally settled on the perfect Test combination?

Finally, Muzumdar weighed in on Kohli’s captaincy and team composition, and the differences with the style of MS Dhoni. Muzumdar said that it is important for a captain to have a team he is comfortable with. READ: Virat Kohli’s first win as Test captain vindicates ‘aggressive’ approach

“Dhoni preferred having seven batsmen and four bowlers, he was comfortable with it. I have always believed that a captain needs to be comfortable with his team. Dhoni was quite successful with the 7-4 combination. Kohli has different ideas; he prefers six batsmen and five bowlers. I cannot say whether this is the right way to go about things, but he must feel that if you want to win Tests you need five bowlers. Wriddhiman Saha — or whoever the wicketkeeper-batsman is, we cannot discount Naman Ojha — will have to bat at No. 6.” READ: What to expect from the Virat Kohli era of Indian cricket!

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)