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Stats: Does Cheteshwar Pujara ‘deserve’ a spot in the playing XI?

Cheteshwar Pujara has often struggled when he has been out of his comfort zone.

Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara & KL Rahul. (Photo Source: Twitter)

The 5-match Test series between England and India started off a debate as Cheteshwar Pujara was absent from the playing XI of the first Test match in Birmingham. India’s no.3 batsman failed to make the cut due to his recent failures. Virat Kohli opted to pick all three specialist openers in the line-up. KL Rahul, the man who is regarded as India’s 2nd best batsman across all the three formats, takes Pujara’s place. Rahul wouldn’t have found a place in the team otherwise as Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan are the preferred Test openers.

Pujara has had the sword hanging over his head whenever India travels abroad given his poor record outside Asia. However, more often the replacement players’ reputation overshadowed Pujara’s failures. Earlier between 2015 and 2017, Rohit Sharma was preferred as the No.3 or No.6 batsman. Dhawan and Rohit’s struggles while playing away from home has been a consistent excuse to bring back Pujara despite there being no remarkable effort on his part to make the case.

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Though the chosen players have no better record compared to Pujara, their form going into the series/Tests have given them the edge. Pujara’s numbers in the recent county championship explain how poor he has been in this part of the world. He scored just 172 runs at an average of 14.33 with the best of 41 while Ishant Sharma scored his maiden FC fifty at the same time. It is fair to say his four different stints in England hardly helped him improve as a batsman.

Cheteshwar-Pujara’s-record-in-County-Championship

A dismal away record

Pujara averages only 27.09 in the 17 Test matches he played in South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia. The No.3 batsman has only one century and four fifties across 33 innings in these four countries. He is well known for playing out the new ball rather than scoring but he has failed to do that overseas. In the last five years, Pujara was involved in two Test wins in these four countries; Lord’s 2014 and Johannesburg 2018.

He played out a couple of sessions on the first day of the Lord’s Test and did the same during the dead-rubber Johannesburg Test. However, those were the only notable contributions from Pujara other than a couple of fifties he got in the Tests away from home. Despite all this, Kohli and Ravi Shastri have always been under fire from critics and fans given the way they have dealt with Pujara’s position.

Cheteshwar-Pujara’s-Test-record-in-SENA-Counties

There is no doubt that Pujara is a monstrous batsman in Asia. That is exactly how he shaped up his career playing for his state Saurashtra which earned his tag of being the next Rahul Dravid. But Pujara often struggles to hang in there or score runs whenever he is not in his comfort zone. It will be ideal for the team management to look at someone who can be a prospect in the long-run to take Pujara’s place while travelling abroad.

Forms of dismissal

The last time Pujara played a limited-overs International for India way back in 2014 during a Bangladesh tour along with a second string squad. Since then, he has been far from the shorter formats and regarded as a Test specialist. However, despite focusing all his energies on just one format, Pujara has failed to tighten up his game to tackle the in dipping deliveries. While facing an incoming ball his foot gets in the way of his bat and ends up getting bowled or LBW.

Cheteshwar-Pujara’s-Test-dismissals-summary

He has been dismissed bowled or LBW on 31 instances in Test cricket thus far which is almost 1/3rd of his Test dismissals. Moreover, Pujara is a poor runner between the wickets and his dismissal frequency while doing that is very high. He has been run out on six occasions in Test cricket, the most by any player since his debut in 2010.

(Stats as on August 1, 2018)

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