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India vs England: The curious case of Cheteshwar Pujara and India's batting woes

Dropping Cheteshwar Pujara from the 1st Test in Birmingham brought Kohli plenty of flak and with them losing the match, the onslaught turned worse.

Written by: Brett Ellis, New Delhi [ Updated: August 07, 2018 16:03 IST ]
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

Cheteshwar Pujara's wealth of county experience makes him an ideal candidate for India's No. 3 spot.

The No.1 ranked Test team were served a dish so cold, that a loss by 31 runs in the 1st Test at Birmingham would be more than just a headache for Virat Kohli and Co. Despite coming so close, England were the better side at the end of Day 4 in the Birmingham Test as they took the lead in the five-match rubber. 

The English side have not yet been fatigued by the heatwave across Europe, however, with the 2nd Test being hosted at Lord's, is it advantage India?

Unless the Indian batsmen don't pull up their socks, this would be a long summer for their management to figure out who to play in the starting XI for the remainder of the matches. The top brass has been criticised for making changes every now and then, which is not a good sign.

Dropping Cheteshwar Pujara from the 1st Test in Birmingham brought Kohli plenty of flak and with them losing the match, the onslaught turned worse.

The Saurashtra batsman has been the ray of light in Test cricket after India's legendary batsman, Rahul Dravid, a.k.a 'The Wall', hung up his boots in March 2012. The 30-year old Pujara has played 58 Test matches for India, where he has scored 4531 runs, which includes three double tons, 14 centuries and 17 half centuries.

Known as the successor to continue Dravid's legacy, Pujara has shown class in Test cricket, however, that's a different tale outside the sub-continent.

In England, Pujara has played 5 Test matches, and in the 10 innings, he scored 222 runs which included just 1 half century - a matter which should concern the Indian side as he had an average of 22.20 back in 2014.

However, we tend to forget that Pujara has been playing County cricket for quite a while and has made a name for himself in the UK. The Test batsman has played for Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire over the years and by now, the Indian team management can expect him to be ready.

Now the question arises: Who will be the loser if Pujara makes it into the team? Shikhar Dhawan or KL Rahul? The top and middle-order batsmen have started the tour on the wrong foot and out of the two batsmen, one would have to make way for Pujara.

Team India's 'Gabbar' started his innings on a bright note with Murali Vijay, however, given his own poor record outside Asia, the inevitable happened. Dhawan departed at 26 after facing 46 deliveries as he was caught by Malan at slip off Sam Curran's bowling.

In the second innings, India needed 194 runs to win after the bowlers performed superbly by restricting England to set up a low total. However, the batting line-up once again caved in. Dhawan was dismissed for 13 after facing 24 balls as he was caught by wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow off a Stuart Broad delivery.

Dhawan has been in poor form since the start of the England tour, beginning with the T20Is which is also a reflection of the performance of India's batting line-up. In ten innings on this tour, including the practice match, he has produced scores of: 4, 10, 5, 40, 36, 44, 0, 0, 26 and 13.

The 26-year old Rahul, on the other hand, was once again brought into the limelight after his exceptional IPL performances. He continued his form in the limited overs format as well as he scored an unbeaten 101, his second ton in T20I cricket to help India win the 1st T20I at Manchester. 

However, his form has dipped since then. The aggression and determination has been missing from the Karnataka batsman and if he hopes to make an impact and feels that he is ready to contribute, Rahul has to play a convincing innings to secure his spot in the team.

On the question of whether Pujara should be included in place of Rahul for the second Test, Sehwag told IndiaTV during "Cricket Ki Baat" show: "If Rahul played the first Test then I think he should play the second match too. He should get enough chances. Because if you drop a player after just one match, it will definitely hurt his confidence. I think a player should get at least one full series and then if he fails to perform, you can drop that particular player from the team and give chance to others."

"Five Test matches and 10 innings are enough for a player to perform and if somebody fails in it then he should be dropped.

"Yes, earlier I did think that Pujara should play at Lord's but now I feel that Rahul should get the chance since he played the first Test. If he fails to perform in both the innings at Lord's then I think it would be good to bring Pujara in for the third Test," he added.

With the heatwave causing plenty of fatigue and trouble to the hosts, the wicket at Lord's is expected to be dry, which can favor the Indians. Another aspect which should be taken into consideration is that England have not won a Test match at Lord's against Asian teams in a long time now.

In 2014, India won the Lord's Test. Can the same performance be repeated once again or can the Joe Root-led England break the jinx? The question can only be answered in the 2nd Test at Lord's.

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