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Cheteshwar Pujara should play ahead of Rohit Sharma: Sourav Ganguly

India Today logo India Today 13-09-2016
© AP Photo

Former India captain Sourav Ganguly is of the opinion that Cheteshwar Pujara is a much better batsman than Rohit Sharma at the Test level and therefore, must be included in the playing XI.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced a 15-member squad for the upcoming three-Test series against New Zealand on Monday. There were no real surprises in the squad as the selectors decided to drop all-rounder Stuart Binny and pacer Shardul Thakur from the 17-member squad that toured West Indies for a four-Test series in July-August. Incidentally, neither Binny nor Thakur played a Test match in the Caribbean.

The selectors have decided to give Rohit yet another chance despite his repeated failures in the longest format. Rohit scored just 50 runs from the two matches he played in the Caribbean, although Pujara fared no better and managed a paltry 62 runs in three Tests.

But despite proving his credentials in the longest format, Pujara still has to fight for a place in the playing XI with Rohit, who's inconsistency and tendency to gift his wicket away in crunch situations has led to his downfall more often than not.

© AP Photo

PUJARA MUCH BETTER THAN ROHIT

Even Ganguly says Pujara is a much better bet and should be picked ahead of Rohit in the Tests against Kiwis.

"I agree with the system that whoever is picked in the Indian team is being given a long rope. But I think Rohit Sharma's talent in Test cricket has not pushed forward as it has done in the limited-overs formats. He has struggled more on overseas tours and on pitches which offer more seam and bounce.

"I think he has got a fair rope, but I don't think the selectors are going to find anything more about Rohit with the 13 Test matches we play in India. I would pick Pujara any day ahead of Rohit because he's a better player at the Test level. His record in India is as good as Rohit and he got a hundred in South Africa as well," Ganguly told India Today in an exclusive interview.

India captain Virat Kohli though, has often preferred Rohit over Pujara as the former can score runs at a fair click while the latter is considered as a traditional Test batsman who takes his time and plays gritty knocks rather than flashy ones. But Ganguly completely disagrees with this theory.

"Pujara was left out of the Jamaica Test where everybody said he was a bit slow to score and I was completely surprised by those comments. You need a No. 3 batsman like that, imagine Rahul Dravid, he would change his game according to situations. On seaming pitches you cannot just go and hit through the line," he added.

© Reuters Image

VIJAY, RAHUL ARE DADA'S OPENERS

India's opening combination has also been an area of concern as Shikhar Dhawan has often given away his wicket after getting good starts. Murali Vijay on the other hand has been India's in-form batsman at the top and KL Rahul's recent exploits with the bat have made his case stronger. Ganguly also thinks Vijay and Rahul should be the automatic choice for openers.

"Vijay and Rahul should open the batting for India without any doubt, look at their performance overseas. Vijay by far has been India's best opener in the last two years and he should be picked with the eyes closed.

"And Rahul you know has become one of India's premier batsman within a month-and-a-half's time. So I would have Vijay and Rahul open the innings followed by Pujara, Kohli and Rahane."

Ganguly also said that he was really keen to see how new coach Anil Kumble performs with the team on Indian conditions.

"With Ashwin batting at No. 6, I don't see any reason why India cannot go with three spinners and two fast bowlers. I'm really keen to see the outlook of new coach Anil Kumble and what he does in Indian conditions.

"I don't know what Anil is going to do and I'm really looking forward to see whether we play on good pitches where the ball starts turning on Day 4 and 5, or we play on rank turners," the 44-year-old said.

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