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July 14, 2010
Dav Whatmore, the Kolkata Knight Riders coach and the former director of coaching at India's National Cricket Academy, has questioned the selection of Yuvraj Singh in the Test squad against Sri Lanka ahead of batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, who had a prolific run during the recently concluded A tour to England.
"The team surely has some finest Test match players. But, where is Cheteshwar Pujara? I personally think he is a must in the team, especially considering his form. Yuvraj Singh ahead of Pujara is completely baffling. This is just the right time to bring him in," Whatmore told PTI.
Pujara, who represents Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy, was also part of the Kolkata squad in the IPL supervised by Whatmore. He cracked an unbeaten 208 against West Indies A on the tour of England, and scored 332 runs in five limited-overs games as captain, averaging 83. In first-class cricket, Pujara, 22, averages 60.38 and has a triple-century to his name. He has been named Parthiv Patel's deputy for the upcoming Emerging Players' Tournament in Brisbane in August.
Yuvraj, however, has virtually cemented his position in the middle order for the first Test that begins on July 18, scoring a fluent century against Sri Lanka's Board President's XI in the tour game.
India are without Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth on the Sri Lankan tour - both are injured - and Whatmore expected a difficult time for the visitors in the three-match Test series. "Good players are always missed in the team. The key is how ready the playing XI is. Sri Lanka is a very formidable unit and it would be a tough contest for Dhoni and company."
Jaidev Unadkat, a left-arm seamer who Whatmore coached in the last IPL, is part of the Indian outfit in Sri Lanka as a net bowler. Whatmore said he needed more exposure in first-class cricket. "These are early days for him. But there is no doubt that he is a promising talent. Unadkat needs to play and concentrate in first-class matches. He holds a bright future."
The first Test will be Muttiah Muralitharan's last, and Whatmore, while acknowledging his absence would affect Sri Lanka, said they have some impressive reserves in the spin department. "Muralitharan is arguably the greatest spin bowler of the modern era. He was one man, who created a fear psychosis. For the first time ever, batsmen started fearing offspin bowling. Teams always had a specific plan against Murali. His retirement will create a huge hole.
"But Sri Lanka have the young talent. Suraj Randiv is a great offie and a future star. Ajantha Mendis has also troubled many teams and is definitely in Sri Lanka's scheme of things."
India, Whatmore said, are among the front-runners heading into the 2011 World Cup but urged the media to not put pressure on captain MS Dhoni. "Of course India can win the World Cup. But for that to happen, everything should fall in place. But the media have the habit of exaggerating things till it is too close for comfort. No one has the Midas touch. It is just that Dhoni is a wise captain and has a thinking head on his shoulders.
"But the media have added unnecessary pressure on him by branding him 'Captain Cool' and what not. After all, he is a human being. Gary [Kirsten] is a good coach and India has relatively performed well under his guidance."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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