India news January 7, 2013

ODI call-up was expected, says Pujara


Over the last decade, the traditional route for Indian batsmen has been to make the limited-overs side and then, after success in that format, the Test team. Cheteshwar Pujara has bucked the trend. Long bracketed as a Test specialist, Pujara had to wait more than two years after announcing himself in the five-day version for his ODI call-up, despite a domestic one-day average that puts him second in the all-time list.

A top-order batsman, Pujara had to wait because of two major injuries and the presence of three senior players - Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir - who can open the batting, and the blossoming of Virat Kohli at No. 3. The ODI retirement of Tendulkar and the faltering form of Sehwag finally provided him the limited-overs opening.

Pujara also pushed his case by emerging as the highest run-getter in the Challenger Trophy, the only domestic one-day tournament so far this season. "I was expecting this call," Pujara said on the second morning of Saurashtra's Ranji Trophy match in Rajkot. "I did well in the one-dayers at the domestic level and when I went with the India A team to England (where he top scored with 332 runs in five matches). So I was quite confident that I could play the ODI format. I have proved that at the domestic level now it's a question of proving the same thing at the international level."

It isn't clear which spot in India's line-up will be available for Pujara, though. Ajinkya Rahane is set to take over as opener from Sehwag for the first three ODIs against England, and with Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni, the middle order also looks settled. "I'm hopeful of getting to play in the final eleven," Pujara said. "I may not get to do that in the first match but whenever. Not sure what the team strategy is but once I get to the team I will get to know what my role is. If given a chance, I'm very hopeful of doing very well."

Seen as a long-term replacement for Rahul Dravid at No. 3 in Tests, a format where Pujara describes himself as one of the mainstays in the batting, he says he doesn't feel any pressure to show he can thrive in the shorter versions. "I don't need to prove to anyone other than myself, I know that I can do it. I have done it at the domestic level, so it is just about playing the game properly than worrying about what people will say," he said. "If I'm not doing well today then tomorrow I can still do it, I'm young I have still got enough time to prove myself, I don't play cricket to prove anything to anyone."

Pujara says he has worked on expanding his repertoire of strokes over the past few years to include some of the more high-risk shots required in limited-overs cricket. In his previous Ranji match against Madhya Pradesh, he zipped from 150 to 200 in 17 deliveries and played the reverse-sweep and reverse-paddle. "Actually, I started playing the reverse a couple of years ago when the bowlers started adopting the negative tactic against me," he said. "Left-arm spinner bowling over the stumps and on to my pads and you have more space on the off-side and the chances of getting out are less so I have been working on that shot and I have had some decent success with it. That is the kind of shot you don't like to play often but if the situation demands it then you need to learn it."

Even in the Test format, many felt Pujara's selection was delayed, and the wait for the one-day call-up has been longer. "At times I was unfortunate also, because I had two injuries, I was out of the game for more than a year. When you are performing well and you get an injury, you have to start from the scratch, I believe that your concentration, your technique goes down a bit. That way I had to work a little extra to get into the team. Now I am happy because I am fit and doing well in Tests and now have got a call in the ODI format as well. Things are on track."

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Al on January 10, 2013, 17:21 GMT

    Pujara should play in 1st ODI at Rajkot - it's his home ground. Play Pujara instead of Gambhir or Rohit Sharma.

  • lokesh on January 9, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    I would like to see following team for playing XI at present: Rahane, Gambhir, Pujara, Kohli, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Jadeja, Ashwin, B.Kumar, Shami, Ishant. (Raina and Yuvi both in same team not good) ==== After fitness of other players ==== Jadeja --> Tiwari (should work on bowling legspins) Aswhin --> some good world class spinner Gambhr --> Sehwag or some other good technical hitter Ishant/Shami --> I. Pathan Please publish....

  • Ashok on January 9, 2013, 14:33 GMT

    @1st_april:Thanks for your generous praise of Pujara as opposed to @bumble23 comments!. Pujara hit 261 Not out in Ranji yesterday. I hope he keeps some of his runs for the ODI series against England.The word debut is defined in the oxford Dictionary as a person's first appearance in a particular role. Pujara has been in ODI since 2006. He may be making his debut for Indian Natioanal Team in that role now but not for the format itself.I have been a regular commenter in cricinfo columns for nearly a decade & always try to keep away from trash talk or incorrect comments.

  • Ajber on January 9, 2013, 11:31 GMT

    a class act like pujara is must. One day is not all hitting.... We need men other than ipl hitters

  • Vivek on January 9, 2013, 9:19 GMT

    @Jose Puliampatty, Ashwin is atleast one who can take wickets, score runs and contribute. its a collective failure and you cannot single out ashwin for that. Why dont you try your Mr.Appam SthreeSanth??

  • rajmohan on January 9, 2013, 6:40 GMT

    @Nampally .....thats more like it....Pujara is a class player....the solitary class player in the your test side....a player who can master test cricket can play 50 overs too...(vice versa is not true)....Trott / Amla / Clarke prove it....India might very well win this odi series.....since our 50 over squad batsmen haven't been exposed to your deadly spinners in the warm-ups....LOL....

  • Johnathon on January 9, 2013, 6:02 GMT

    With players like Pujara and Rahane, India should beat England. Hopefully it will be a whitewash, especially with the help of that new good all rounder Bhuvneshwar Kumar. I know Indian Cricket is going through a hard time, and so is the Sri Lankan Team. Best wishes to the Indian team to win the series. From a Sri Lankan fan. It is high time we put away our differences and act as one, including the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. In the end, we are all the same. Long live Asia

  • joseph on January 9, 2013, 4:33 GMT

    Gambir, Kohli, Rohit, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Raina, Jadeja, Ashwin/Mishra, Bhuvaneshwar, Ishant, Dinda/ SAhmed could be my choice. Sure Pujara wont get a chance in this series as players like Rahane and RSharma are queing up. Axing of Gambir is around the corner and i am wondering what Dhawan should do to get a place in 11?

  • Vaibhav on January 9, 2013, 4:04 GMT

    He is there to put GG on notice - perform or perish. Also Raina has not done much in the last series so Pujara could strengthen the lower middle order. It is about attitude and mood in the dressing room after serial defeats. Look at India A and Delhi who beat an English team in apparently full form. How does it look if the A and local sides defeat england which end up winning the ODI series.