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Pujara's not luggage, he can play ODIs


Jaspreet Sahni,Cricketnext.com
Jan 22, 2013 at 01:31pm IST

We saw how a rookie, when thrown in the line of fire, comes up as a promising youngster. It happened with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed and there's no reason why Cheteshwar Pujara can't repeat his Test heroics in limited-overs cricket to give Gautam Gambhir - who has been testing the patience of fans and selectors for a fair while now - a break. If Virender Sehwag can be dropped from the squad on form, so too can Gambhir be removed from India's playing XI.

Pujara has been with India's squad since the current series against England started but is gathering rust waiting for his ODI debut. How frustrating it must be for the fans to see Gambhir continuing to gift his wicket away, while Pujara, a Ranji Trophy run-monger, is being continuously overlooked.

Gambhir's scores of 52, 8 and 33 in the first three ODIs against England may not read bad at all, but for a veteran of 145 ODIs repeatedly missing out after decent starts is criminal, especially when you have in-form replacements sitting in the dressing room. There may be suggestions to drop Ajinkya Rahane, another failure so far in this series, instead of Gambhir. But considering that Rahane is being given only his third crack at a full series – he was given 10 consecutive ODIs against England in September-October 2011, home and away, in the absence of Virender Sehwag - passing judgements on him without an extended run at the top would be unjustified. In short, if two rookie new-ball bowlers can do it for India, why can't Rahane and Pujara do the same with the bat?

Pujara is not luggage, he can play ODIs too

While Gambhir continues to gift his wicket away, Pujara - a Ranji Trophy run-monger - is being frustratingly overlooked.

Pujara scored 629 runs in three Ranji Trophy matches this season at 125.80, with a highest of 352. What's equally remarkable is the Saurashtra batsman's strike rate of 80.53 during those six first-class innings. He took that form into the Test series against England where he scored a double-century and a century in the first and second Tests.

A gaze at Pujara's List A record, a pre-requisite to merit place in the national limited-overs squad, is enough to suggest he can be India's Hashim Amla. In 61 matches, Pujara has scored 2735 runs at an average of 56.97, including eight centuries, 17 half-centuries and a highest of 158 not out. It will be immature and premature to compare Pujara with Amla at this nascent stage of his international career but he surely is following in the footsteps of the South African run machine.

Gambhir may still be India's No. 1 opener in the blueprint of the 2015 World Cup, but Pujara deserves a chance - and soon.

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