New Zealand in India 2016-17 September 28, 2016

Strike rate is for bowlers in Tests - Kumble

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'Absolutely no pressure on Pujara' - Kumble

India's coach Anil Kumble has once again thrown his weight firmly behind Cheteshwar Pujara. Speaking strongly two days after Virat Kohli had verified former selector Sandeep Patil's revelation that the team management had spoken to Pujara about his strike rate, Kumble said strike rate was relevant for bowlers in Test cricket, not batsmen. He went to the extent of saying he was satisfied with Pujara's performance in the West Indies even though he was dropped for Rohit Sharma in the third Test.

On slow pitches against a pretty defensive West Indies attack and field-sets Pujara scored 16 off 67 in Antigua and was run-out for 46 off 159 balls in Kingston before he was dropped. A top-order collapse resulted in his return to the side for the fourth Test, and India have played both Pujara and Rohit in the two Tests since then.

"Even I'm a bit old-fashioned," Kumble said when a journalist asked him about strike rates in Tests. "I know there is a lot of strike rate in the last eight years after the advent of T20. As far as I was playing, in Test cricket strike rates were mostly talked about for bowlers and not for batsmen. That's how I like to look at it. In a team you need different characters, different quality players. Players whose skill sets are suited to different challenges that happen in a Test match. Because we've seen that that's what happens in a Test match. That's the beauty about Test cricket. From my point of view, as far as I am concerned, strike rates are relevant only for bowlers in Test matches."

Kumble complimented Pujara for seeing out a tough period of play in the first session of the series in the West Indies after Shannon Gabriel had removed M Vijay early with a bouncer that also injured his hand. By the time Pujara got out in the 28th over, the sting had been taken out of a limited West Indies attack.

"I think you need to bat based on situations," Kumble said. "Yes, Virat is right that someone like Pujara in the West Indies, probably on one occasion…and he only played two innings. And both those innings were relevant. Even in the first Test match, Vijay got out cheaply and then he and Shikhar [Dhawan] had a good partnership till lunch. That was crucial for the team, because we went into lunch losing only one wicket. And we all know the importance of the first session of a match that is the first Test of a series.

"So the relevance of Pujara is extreme there. But I'm really surprised and a bit disappointed that this talk keeps coming up. As long as someone reads the situation and plays according to the situation, that's what is expected of the team. And he is a very important cog in our team and in our plans. And he's been successful and I know that he will continue to be successful."

Even in a different context Kumble continued to defend Pujara. With the inclusion of Gautam Gambhir in the Test squad as back-up opener, Kumble was asked if Pujara could breathe easy and not be asked to open in an emergency scenario. "I don't think Pujara has ever breathed easily, from all you guys' perspective and some people who are constantly watching him. At least from the team management and the team's perspective, there is absolutely no pressure on Pujara.

"And we've seen over the years his contribution. Even in the last Test match, we saw the importance of his contribution to the team's cause. So I don't see pressure on anyone in this team. The beauty about this squad is that there's hardly any pressure on anyone, yes there is roles and responsibilities but there's no pressure put on any player."

Even after coming back from the West Indies, where Pujara seemed under pressure to keep his place and lost it eventually, Kumble had reassured that Pujara was a vital part of the team. Since then, Pujara has scored a double-century and a century in Duleep Trophy, and two half-centuries on a difficult pitch in the Kanpur Test.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • vnr on September 29, 2016, 18:21 GMT

    Looking back over the strike rate debate, it seems India wants no drawn Tests at the moment, but rather wants to give themselves every chance to win the Test match. One advantage of scoring runs at a faster strike rate is that (if your team makes enough runs) it makes it harder for the opposition team to bat through for a draw. Factoring in possible loss of overs to rain or bad light, this seems a sound strategy to get into position to win more matches, in the 'fast, powerful batting' tradition of great players like V.Sehwag, Adam Gilchrist, Kapil Dev, Botham, Chris Cairns and the great Australian team of 1999-2004. Scoring more runs in fewer overs also gives your own bowlers more time and overs to take 20 wickets & win the Test match. Regarding the debate over Indian team selection for Tests, I believe that 5 batsmen + WK + 5 bowlers is a good combination for taking 20 wickets, provided WK & at least 2 bowlers can bat competently at this level, which we have in Ashwin, Saha & Jadeja.

  • Balamurugan on September 29, 2016, 13:35 GMT

    Test Cricket needs people who have Discipline, Patience, Determination, Indefatigability, Skill and ability to not fall into traps (Remember Sachin's 2004 (SCG 241*) Inning where he did not play a single cover drive) Quite the opposite of T-20 format (where a game completes within one and a half sessions of Test Cricket) and to some extent ODI format. Test Cricket is more of a mind game. A great player in T20 format necessarily need not be a good player of Test Cricket. Cheteswar Pujara is a Solid player and he should be the no.3 for a decade atleast. Murali Vijay & Pujara are the right people to wear down the opposition bowlers at the start of the innings. It was unfortunate to see another solid player in the making, K L Rahul, asked to accelerate in the start of the innings (2- 30+s), to not play his natural game. once the batsmen comes in to rhythm they will start scoring freely. Kohli still learning the Test Cricket Trade. Aggression is for Limited Formats. Bulls Eye Kumble Sir.

  • Muhtasim-us Sakib on September 29, 2016, 12:09 GMT

    Kumble is right as always. You must have the ability to be patient and occupy the crease and score big runs after grinding the bowling down. If tests were all about making quick runs then West Indies would still be the team that was the most dominant. And if you cant occupy the crease and bat for long periods you always give more time for the opposition to bowl you out twice. As for the players in our team who possess the ability to make big score consistently, I would say they are Rahane, Vijay and Pujara. Rahul could join them but not Kohli because he cant curb his aggression and throws his wicket away to the least threatening bowler, Wagner in the opposition lineup.

  • Prinesh on September 29, 2016, 11:11 GMT

    @PUSHKARKAKA - Actually, you win by taking 20 opposition wickets for fewer runs than which you conceded your own 20 wickets (ignoring declarations). Runs are scored directly by strokemakers, and indirectly through crease occupiers who push bowlers into 3rd and 4th spells, leading to looser bowling and more scoring opportunities. Kumble is 100% on the money, would love to have him as our coach. From South Africa.

  • Pushkar on September 29, 2016, 9:59 GMT

    It is high time that Kumble should be sacked as Indian Coach. First lesson in Cricket: You win game by making more runs and NOT staying for a whole day at crease. If a Coach doesn't know this he should go home and play "patience"

  • aman302160761 on September 29, 2016, 9:15 GMT

    I thought virat was smarter then what he has been saying , strike rate in tests , virat should look at his own dismissals , what he got from being over positive and look at pujara who literally with vijay won us this match , pujara has his game plans let him follow them he will be our most reliable test player .

  • Singh Rohit K on September 29, 2016, 9:12 GMT

    Somebody have rightly said ...the root of anger is fear...despite the rock solid typical test inning of 70 not out people are here showing anger over sharma...this denotes they are actually in fear if rohit sharma scored some more scores like those they wont have their favorites in the final eleven....

  • raj on September 29, 2016, 7:53 GMT

    @ cricinfouser agree with you. A good test batsman should hit big hundreds or a double to make it count. Who can do that apart from pujara?

  • chaithanya on September 29, 2016, 7:51 GMT

    @ CRICFAN59853133 very well said. let rohit the eternally talented , never performing(in tests), be confined to limited overs.

  • ARVIND on September 29, 2016, 7:08 GMT

    Indian team for Next test Should be: Vijay, Gambhir (Present Form better than Dhavan), Pujara, Virat, Rahane, Mishra , Shaha, Ashwin, Jadeja, Shami, Yadav.... As we are playing in India, India can play with 5 bowlers... In which Ashwin, Jadeja, Mishra can bat well then Rohit...

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