After nearly two years, an opportunity awaits Cheteshwar Pujara to return to Test cricket, the format of the game he enjoys playing the most. He is certain to be recalled for the two-Test series against New Zealand to be played at Hyderabad (Aug. 23-27) and Bangalore (Aug. 31-Sept. 4).
The five national selectors — K. Srikkanth, Narendra Hirwani, Raja Venkat, Surendhra Bhave and Mohinder Amarnath — meet here on Friday to pick the team for the series, and also the India ‘A’ team scheduled to tour New Zealand in September.
They have options in Bengal’s Manoj Tiwary, Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane and Punjab’s Rahul Sharma (the last three were in the 15 for the third Test against the West Indies last November) to complete the squad.
They are likely to persist with V.V.S. Laxman for the series against Ross Taylor’s team.
India is also scheduled to play four Tests each against England and Australia in the 2012-13 home season.
Long road back
Serious knee-related injuries had forced Saurashtra’s Pujara to spend a long period of time on recovery and rehabilitation over the last two years. But he has shown plenty of pluck and patience, and has demonstrated the mettle to overcome setbacks, and the batting skills to almost be an automatic choice in the squad.
As captain, he scored 252 runs in the three-match unofficial Test series on the recent India ‘A’ tour of the West Indies.
“If at all anyone has to replace Rahul Dravid in the squad, it has to be Cheteshwar,’’ said a national selector.
Pujara made his debut against Australia at Bangalore in October 2010, making 72 in the second innings to help India win the Test by seven wickets.
That India has not lost a home series for almost eight years (since a 1-2 reverse against Australia in the 2004-05 series) is a clear indicator of its strong batting line-up and spin wherewithal.
Dhoni’s team beat the West Indies 2-0 in the last series at home, and will aim to return to winning ways after the rout in England and Australia.
In the last home Test, left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and R. Ashwin took 16 wickets between them, and 42 wickets overall in three matches. So it could be a straight-forward matter of sticking to the same combination.
Zaheer Khan, who missed the series against the West Indies, should return to lead the attack along with Umesh Yadav.
The choice for the third seamer could be between Bengal’s Ashok Dinda and Baroda’s Irfan Pathan.
Both Ishant Sharma (ankle) and Varun Aaron (lower-back stress) are undergoing rehabilitation work.
Pujara made his debut in October 2010 not October 2012 as mentioned in this story. The error was corrected on August 10, 2012.
Keywords: Cheteshwar Pujara