Cheteshwar Pujara is the need of the hour in ODIs

By Chaitan Papnai | Updated: Jan 30, 2014, 19:10 PM IST

Indian cricket team certainly has no dearth of batsmen in the current squad who are capable of playing whirlwind knocks at any given point. From their openers to lower middle order, they have a long list of batsmen who can score boundaries and sixes at will. MS Dhoni and Indian selectors are quite aware of this fact.

However, 50-over game is not just about clearing the fences; it’s also about rotating strikes -- picking singles and doubles. Holding a wicket from one end and playing a sheet-anchor role is still very much required in the limited over format. To play that role, especially in the middle of the innings, a batsman needs a different kind of temperament altogether. At the moment, India don’t really have any batsman in their team, who can play that critical role in between the powerplays, to ensure that the team can chase or score a big total, especially while playing overseas.

Till the time India was winning back-to-back ODI tournaments in 2013, the need of such a batsman wasn’t quite felt. But after losing last five ODIs out of six (losing two consecutive series), while playing on foreign soils, it’s quite visible that a temperamental batsman in the middle order is certainly the need of the hour for India.

‘Men in Blue’ recently played against South Africa who have Hashim Amla in their side, and the right-hander is just the perfect candidate to play such kind of a role. The Kiwis have Kane Williamson, who is custom-made for this job and has been playing his role extremely well. In fact, it’s a result of his (Williamson’s) four consecutive fifties in as many games, that Black Caps managed to clinch the five-match series 3-0, with still a match left, while playing against the World Champions – India.

If we think of a batsman of such caliber, in India, the only batman who has a more than fit-in profile to play the crucial role is none other than Cheteshwar Pujara. The 26-year-old has the technique and temperament to adapt to the conditions really well. Apart from that, he has a knack of playing with the straight bat and plays spinners and seamers equally well.

Very much like Williamson, he too has the quality to shift gears quickly. Pujara’s ability to rotate strike by working the ball into gaps makes him the top contender for the job. A few days back, Pujara himself showed his eagerness to represent India in the fifty-over format, when he said: “I do like to play the one-day format. Especially with the 2015 World Cup coming up, I hope I get a chance to play in that team. As a cricketer, everybody dreams to play the World Cup for Team India.”

If Williamson can play for NZ, Amla for South Africa, then why can’t Pujara perform the same role for India in the ODIs? Like these two, Pujara also has a cool, calm head above his shoulders with the same hunger for runs. One more factor that goes in Pujara’s favour, is that he has been seen as the successor of ‘the wall’ Rahul Dravid, who also played same role for Team India in the ODIs and did that exceptionally well.

Considering the fact that 2015 World Cup is just a year away, which is scheduled to take place in Trans-Tasman nations, Dhoni should take Pujara into his scheme of things, for the biggest ICC event in which India will play to defend their title.