What’s the story?
Former Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag, who is currently the Director of Cricket Operations at Kings XI Punjab, said that Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara needs to vastly improve his skills in the T20 format if he wishes to play in the IPL in the future.
He called upon the Saurashtra cricketer, who last featured in the IPL for Kings XI in the 2014 edition, to take a cue from South Africa’s Hashim Amla, who has lit up the 2017 IPL with his aggressive strokeplay, despite being considered by many as someone who is too slow for the T20 format.
"Amla knows how to adapt to different formats, he knows how to play in what situation. As far as Pujara is concerned, he played for us but may be the hopes we had from him he did not come up to that expectations,” Sehwag said, comparing the two batsmen.
Despite establishing himself as a regular for the Indian Test side, Pujara has not been considered for selection in the shorter formats of the game. In fact, he has not found any takers for the past three editions with the franchises reluctant to hand him a contract over his perceived low strike rate.
The stats certainly tend to back Sehwag’s criticism of Pujara with the latter scoring only 390 runs from 30 matches in the IPL at a strike rate of less than 100 – something which is considered criminal in the T20 format.
The heart of the matter
Earmarked as a future Test cricketer at a very young age, even drawing comparisons with the great Rahul Dravid, Pujara has done considerably well to earn a regular place in the Virat Kohli-led side, despite a stiff competition for places in the batting department.
However, it is in the shorter formats of the game that the technically sound batsman has faced difficulties, finding it uncomfortable to adjust to the fast-paced nature of the modern game.
On the contrary, Amla has fared pretty well in all formats at the international level, slipping seamlessly from one format to the other and has exceeded expectations in the ongoing edition of the IPL thus far scoring 299 runs in 7 matches at a strike rate of 145.85.
Sehwag feels that unless Pujara seeks to work on his strokeplay, he could find himself out of the reckoning for the IPL in the future as well.
With the 2017 IPL set to be followed by the Champions Trophy event in June – a tournament where India’s participation still hangs in the balance over the BCCI’s unhappiness at being outvoted over the revenue model to be adopted in the game, – and the series against West Indies featuring 5 ODIs and a lone T20, Pujara will have to wait until August to don the Indian colours again with 3 Test matches lined up against Sri Lanka.
Pujara will have fond memories of his last visit to the island nation as he carried his bat through the innings during the second Test enabling India to make a stellar comeback and win the three-match series 2-1 after losing the opening Test at Galle.
However, if he does have serious ambitions of featuring in the IPL and playing for the Indian side in the shorter formats, he surely needs to play a more aggressive brand of cricket.
Known for his aggressive no-holds-barred style of play, one can understand Sehwag wanting his players to take the game to the opposition and that’s exactly what he said when he was appointed in his new capacity at Kings XI Punjab.
Though one cannot expect Pujara to transform himself all of a sudden, let’s hope that he can make the necessary adjustments to his game and impress in the limited overs matches in the domestic circuit to give himself a chance at next year’s IPL auctions and beyond.