Cheteshwar Pujara, a doyen at No. 3 in India’s batting order, has been dropped from West Indies Tour and spin great Harbhajan Singh feels that Indian cricket hasn’t exactly learned to value his contribution. “I have a lot of respect for Chesteshwar Pujara for what he has achieved. He has been an unsung hero of Indian team for many years now. He has been one of those pillars of strength for India, doing the dirty work of hanging in there, making sure other batters got their comfort,” Harbhajan was blunt as ever in his assessment in an interview to PTI.
Harbhajan has expressed his massive displeasure with the “lack of respect” for the Saurashtra man and the fact that the yardstick to judge performances hasn’t been same for every senior player. “I believe he needs to be given a bit more respect than what he has been given and the way he was chucked out of the team was a surprise for me. Because he isn’t the only one not scoring runs. There are others as well who play in that same team who are scoring runs at same average,” Harbhajan said.
He didn’t name any other player, but it could be a thinly-veiled reference to Virat Kohli‘s sub-30 average during the same period, the time when Pujara struggled for big scores and paid the price recently.
“I think rule should be same for everyone not different for different people. Look, if you want to drop a senior guy like him, talk to him and make him understand ‘look this what we are looking to do’. Tell him what’s the way forward, make him understand. All he needs is a bit more respect.”
Harbhajan is also irritated with Pujara’s strike-rate and intent being questioned time and again, without people understanding that a Test team requires traditional players, who bring in balance.
“In case of Pujara, we keep hearing about his strike-rate of scoring runs in Tests but because of that strike-rate, the wickets remain intact and that’s a huge contribution,” he said.
“So you have to see which guy is contributing what. You need to see how much the team needs him. In my opinion, the team still needs him.
“When you go abroad (SENA countries), you need one such batter as you can’t have everyone playing strokes all the time. You need someone who plays normal Test cricket, just like Chesteshwar Pujara.”
Harbhajan was all praise for Ajinkya Rahane for the manner in which he made a comeback to the Test arena, with knocks of 89 and 46 against Australia in the WTC final at the Oval. “The way he made a comeback, he really looked good in that WTC finale. Now he is the vice-captain again, he said.
“You need to show faith in these players so that they can do well again. A good player is a good player. Doesn’t matter if you are going forward or backwards (with his selection).”
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