Pujara ready for ODIs, says his coach

Coach Debu Mitra says his ward has the game to shine in shorter format too.

Cheteshwar Pujara is seen by national selectors as a longer format batsman.


New Delhi: Prolific scorer Cheteshwar Pujara not only scores heavily in the longer format of the game but does it at a good strike rate, so he is good enough to play One-day Internationals too, says renowned coach Debu Mitra.

Pujara is widely considered to have the perfect temperament for the long duration matches, and has so far played in only two ODIs, in Zimbabwe in January, before being ignored again.

“As far as Test cricket is considered, he has looked to me the most accomplished player in the country. He has got the temperament, he has got the shots, and his choosing of shots is impeccable,” Saurashtra coach Mitra, now in Delhi for the Ranji Trophy game against the Railways, told MAIL TODAY. “He is very determined. He doesn’t know anything else except batting. He always thinks of his batting; sometimes I feel he must be thinking about it in the washroom too. I’ve come across so many cricketers – I was Bengal coach for seven years and this is my 10th year with Saurashtra – and I haven’t come across such a dedicated cricketer,” he said.

The 65-year-old coach cites Pujara’s two big knocks last season to buttress his belief that the Rajkot batsman is ready for the 50-over format.

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“Last year he scored one double hundred and one triple hundred. People forget one thing. He made 203 off 221 balls against Madhya Pradesh and 352 off 427 balls against Karnataka in the quarter-finals in the Ranji Trophy. So what do you think?” he asked.

“His strike rate is good enough for a one-day match. Why not try him in ODIs too? I would definitely say that he should be given a chance in the ODIs. He is a good fielder and a good team man too. What else do you expect?”

Pujara, 25, usually bats at No. 3, but he was made to open the innings in both ODIs in Zimbabwe when some seniors had opted out of the tour.

He didn’t do anything spectacular in the limited opportunities, and was forgotten after that.

Mitra said the other player that matches Pujara’s intensity is Sachin Tendulkar.

“Like Pujara, Sachin too always thought of his batting. And because of this he is Sachin Tendulkar. He is not distracted,” he emphasised.

Mitra, a quiet person, has met Tendulkar only a few times. But he cherishes the compliment the batting maestro gave him at the Ranji Trophy final between Saurashtra and Mumbai in Mumbai in January.

“Dilip Doshi introduced me to Sachin at Lord’s in London during India’s tour to England in 2011."

“I will always remember the compliment he gave when we met the next time, probably on the first day of the Ranji Trophy final: ‘Well done, sir. You have done a great job’. It could be also because Saurashtra was going to play the final,” he said.

“Sachin is Sachin. He is a different kind of cricketer. He is a legend. I think he took the decision to retire at the right time. Otherwise, if the selectors had dropped him it would have been embarrassing for someone who has done so much for India.”

Saurashtra have never won the Ranji Trophy and got an opportunity to break the jinx last season.

But Mumbai proved too good, winning by an innings and 125 runs.

Mitra is, however, not depressed. And the team cheered him up by launching the new season with an innings win over Rajasthan last month. He is a coach who thinks very differently from his modern counterparts.

“I am in this line for 40 years. Cricket a funny game, and I don’t believe in planning. I give some suggestions to the captain and the players who are involved in the game. That’s all,” he stressed. “I don’t plan because it’s a one-ball game. You can’t predict anything.”

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