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Sussex sign Cheteshwar Pujara for English summer

Fourth county stint comes with Pujara looking to force his way back into India's Test side

Cheteshwar Pujara looks back after falling early on day three, South Africa vs India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 3rd day, January 13, 2022

Cheteshwar Pujara was dropped for the ongoing Test series against Sri Lanka  •  AFP/Getty Images

India batter Cheteshwar Pujara is set to join Sussex for the English summer, and will play the County Championship and Royal London One-Day competition for the majority of this season. Pujara will replace Travis Head, who was released from his contract due to workload management along with the news that he is expecting his first child.
The club said that Pujara is expected to arrive in time for the first county match of the season, on April 7, and remain until at least the end of the one-day competition.
Sussex also announced the signing of Australia batter-keeper Josh Philippe, after learning that Mohammad Rizwan's spell at the club will be cut short by international commitments. Afghanistan legspinner Rashid Khan will return for another season in the T20 Blast.
The news comes after Pujara was dropped from the squad for the ongoing two-Test series against Sri Lanka at home and was demoted from Grade A+ to Grade B in the BCCI's central contracts list for 2021-22. Pujara has been under the scanner for his lack of big scores in Tests for a while, with his last Test century coming on the 2018-19 tour of Australia.
His recent Test scores, including ducks in consecutive Tests against New Zealand and South Africa, hasn't helped his case much.
Since that tour of Australia, Pujara has averaged 27.38, while scoring 1287 runs in 48 innings with his highest score being 91 against England. His career average, in this period, has fallen from nearly 47 to 44.25.
However, Chetan Sharma, the chairman of India's selection committee, had said they were not closing the door on him. Echoing the selectors, India captain Rohit Sharma had also said that if the batters keep scoring runs in the domestic circuit, they can get back in the national team.
Playing the Ranji Trophy after a gap of two years, Pujara scored a total of 191 runs from five innings which included two fifties, for Saurashtra.
This will be Pujara's fourth county stint, following spells at Derbyshire (2014), Yorkshire (2015 and 2018), Nottinghamshire (2017). Though he signed a deal with Gloucestershire in 2020 to play the first six games of the County Championship season, he was unable to fulfil his deal after the first seven rounds were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. His record in the County Championship, though, is middling - 988 runs at an average of 29.93 from 36 innings, including three hundreds and three half-centuries.
"I am excited and honoured to be a part of the historic Sussex County Cricket Club for the upcoming season," Pujara said. "I do look forward to joining up with the Sussex family soon and be a part of its rich cricketing history. Over the years I have always enjoyed my time in the UK playing county cricket, so eagerly looking forward to the new stint and hope to contribute to the club's success."
Keith Greenfield, performance director of Sussex, said: "Considering the constantly changing schedules of overseas players and tours, the quality of international players we have secured to represent the club across all formats is very exciting for all involved."