Test specialists Cheteshwar Pujara may have drawn criticism for his slow strike rate during the tour of West Indies but India coach Anil Kumble on Wednesday threw his weight behind the batsman saying he’s a vital cog in the team’s scheme of things and no one has put pressure on him.
In the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur, Pujara scored 62 and 78, sharing two century-plus partnerships with Murali Vijay to lay the foundation for India’s massive 197-run win. Terming himself old-fashioned, Kumble said the talks about strike-rate in Tests should be confined to the bowlers.
“...I’m a bit old fashioned. I know there is a lot of strike rate in the last eight years after the advent of T20.
As far as I was concerned, when I was playing in Test cricket strike rate was spoken about bowlers, not batsmen,” Kumble said in a media interaction ahead of the second Test against New Zealand, starting on Friday.
“That’s how I looked at it. In the team you need different characters, different quality players, different players with skill sets which are suited to challenges in a Test match. Because every session can be different in a Test match, we have seen that. And that’s the beauty about Test cricket. In my point of view, strike rates are only relevant to bowlers in Test cricket, not the batsmen,” he added.
Former chief selector Sandip Patil, in an interview, had said that Pujara’s form was a concern in the West Indies as Kumble and Test captain Virat Kohli had spoken to the batsman on improving his strike rate. But the Indian coach insisted that the team had never put any pressure on the batsman.
“I’m extremely surprised and a bit disappointed this talk keeps coming up. As long as someone reads the situation and plays according to it, what’s expected from the team, it’s fine. He’s a very important cog in our plans. He’s been successful. I know that he will continue to be successful.
“We all know the importance of first session in a Test of a series. So the relevance of Pujara is there. You need to bat according to the situation,” the 45-year-old said.
“At least from the team perspective, there’s absolutely no pressure on Pujara. We have seen his contribution over the years. Even in the last Test we saw the importance of his contribution to the team’s cause. So I don’t see any pressure on anyone in this team. The beauty about this squad is that there is hardly any pressure on anyone. Yes, there are roles and responsibilities. But there is no pressure.”
Gautam Gambhir has been called in as a replacement for the injured KL Rahul and the left handed opening batsman is back in the Test team after two years.
Asked if Pujara can now breathe easy with a strokemaking Gambhir at the top, Kumble said: “I don’t think Pujara has ever breathed easy, from all you perspective and some people who are constantly watching him.” On playing Gambhir, he said all 15 would be available for selection.
“It’s actually nice to have Gautam back. Unfortunately Rahul got injured in the last Test match. I think something ‘s happening with the openers. For some reason they are getting injured. Vijay got injured in West Indies. Now Rahul. It’s unfortunate. Rahul was batting brilliantly.