Mohali: The suspense over Cheteshwar Pujara's extent of injury ended with team-mate Shikhar Dhawan confirming the Indian middle-order mainstay's participation in the third cricket Test against Australia, starting here Thursday.
"Pujara is fit and ready to play," Dhawan, who will be making his Test debut Thursday, told reporters. Initially though, the Delhi left-hander was reluctant in answering Pujara's status. "You have to ask the physio for that," was Dhawan's answer. Architect of India's victory in the second Test in Hyderabad, Pujara was hit on the left knee by a local pace bowler while batting in the nets yesterday.
The batsman, who had cracked a magnificent double century in Hyderabad, looked in considerable pain and he was forced to leave the nets. After getting medical attention, Pujara had his left-knee strapped and didn't take any further part in the training session.
He was seen initially walking with a slight limp before choosing to lie on a bench adjacent to the nets. As the net session ended, he got up and was seen walking back with his gears into the dressing room.
However, Wednesday morning, the batsman batted in the nets for a while before going for a catching practice session with the fielding coach Trevor Penney, almost putting to rest speculations about his participation. The conformation came a little while later. Pujara has been a bane for the Australian bowlers so far in the series, scoring runs at the crucial number three position.
Shikhar Dhawan also expressed his desire to form an opening combination with Murali Vijay, which can emulate the success enjoyed by Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir at the top. Both Sehwag and Gambhir are currently out of the squad owing to prolonged run drought, forcing the selectors to run out of patience.
"Both Viru bhai and Gautam have done well over a long period of time. I hope we also do as good as them in the future," the 27-year-old Dhawan told reporters on the eve of the third Test against Australia here Thursday. "In the last two games Viru paaji played, I have spoken to him, tried to learn from him," the Delhi player added.
Dhawan said he also observed Sachin Tendulkar batting at the nets, and could learn a few things by merely watching the senior batsman train. Dhawan was given the news of his debut today morning by coach Duncan Fletcher and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Talking about opening the innings with the Chennai right-hander, the left-handed Dhawan said coordination between the two will be very important if they are to form a successful partnership.
"Coordination ... things like running between the wickets, with Vijay should not be a problem at all. I have played with him in the Irani Cup and we understand each other well," he said. Dhawan is pleased to have entered the Test arena, the pinnacle of international cricket, after years of slog in the domestic circuit.
"I have performed really well in domestic cricket and I am not feeling any pressure. Obviously, there is a bit of nerves, but it's the same with everyone," he said. Asked about the transition from domestic to international cricket, Dhawan said, "When you make runs in challenging situations, you feel ready for the next level. And I am confident of doing well after many years in domestic cricket which has made me more mature and patient.
"Now it's time to look forward to new dreams for future," he said. India are 2-0 up in the four-match series having posted comprehensive victories in the first two Tests in Chennai and Hyderabad, but there was no scope for complacency, according to Dhawan. "We are not relaxed, of course it's good that we are 2-0 up in the series. The coach told us that we are coming off a long break and need to play with the same attitude," he said.
"I am feeling good, the preparation has been good ... Want to do something for the country." Asked if the Indians would find it easier to face the Australian attack sans James Pattinson, Dhawan said, "Australia have got good fast bowlers, they have got good bowlers other than Pattinson also. We will have to play well no matter what the attack is."
It was Dhawan's form in the last domestic season and agility on the field that could have prompted the selectors to take the bold decision of dropping Sehwag. After an unsuccessful tour to the West Indies in 2011, Dhawan turned things around with some impressive performances in the domecstic circuit.
He was very consistent this year averaging over 50 in the Ranji Trophy, besides scoring a century in each of North Zone's two games in the Duleep Trophy. He also struck a ton against an England XI in a warm-up limited-overs game, before compiling an useful 63 in the first innings of the Irani Cup.