Harsha Bhogle: Donít bench Cheteshwar Pujara

Harsha Bhogle
Cheteshwar Pujara's selection to India's one-day international team was inevitable, to the extent that you must wonder why it took so long coming. But since picking a team is much easier when you don't have to pick it, we'll let that be! But having picked him in a squad that is far too big anyway, we need to see whether or not he actually gets to play. And that is where I believe the selectors need to send a clearer signal.

As I see it, there is no point in playing Pujara anywhere below number 4. With Kohli and Yuvraj at numbers 3 and 4, that really leaves the opening slot. Now by leaving out Sehwag, the selectors have clearly told Ajinkya Rahane that he is going to get a bit of a run at the top of the order which means Pujara will need to play for Gambhir, if at all.

The other alternative of course is that Yuvraj plays Raina's role at number 6 and Kohli slips to 4 to allow Pujara in at 3 but I think Kohli has earned the right to own his batting position.

Now if indeed there has to be a choice between Pujara and Gambhir, I believe it is appropriate that the selectors make it rather than the captain and coach. In any case teams are decided after consulting the team management so it shouldn't be too difficult for them to choose one or the other. But if Pujara is indeed left out, then it makes no sense to have him with the team given that Saurashtra have has a wonderful season in the Ranji Trophy and they will need him to progress further.

He is playing such dominant innings for them that it would be criminal to have him sit around like we are doing with Rohit Sharma. For Mumbai, he is the star, the matchwinner, and he will be far more positive being wanted there rather than taking caps or water out for someone else.

That is why we must pick no more than thirteen players for a home one-day international. One reserve batsman, one reserve bowler and that means most people are sure of their place and that is nice. Picking players on the morning of a game, meaning letting them spend the night in suspense, does nobody any good.

With thirteen you cover for a late injury and really, you don't need more cover than that. In good teams you must have as few people as possible who have little chance of playing.

Having said that I hope the BCCI is very unhappy with the way the Ranji Trophy quarter-finals have gone. Three of the four matches were one innings affairs and while the weather may have played a part in one of those, there is no way that can be good for Indian cricket. Teams need to play to win outright, not take a first innings lead and sit down to lay an egg on it.

Mumbai refused to go for an outright win in their last league match, which I hope earned them a nice rebuke somewhere, and weren't particularly keen to ask their bowlers to bowl Baroda out a second time. I know they need to budget for workloads and potential injuries but it makes the Ranji Trophy a poorer tournament.

Anything that leads to bouts of meaningless cricket cannot be good. And there has been a lot of meaningless cricket this year on pitches where bowlers have been rendered toothless.

That is why I am so eager to see young Jiwanjot Singh. I spoke to a couple of umpires and they told me that the pitches in Punjab this year were green and helped seam bowlers a lot. Runs in those conditions then become more valuable and Jiwanjot has five hundreds this year. On the flip side Amol Muzumdar made five centuries too. I must confess I have long been an admirer of Muzumdar's cricket but the fact that at this stage in life he is scoring centuries on demand speaks very poorly of the bowling he is up against.

And merely illustrates my view, long held and routinely reinforced, that so many teams in first class cricket does Indian cricket more harm than good.

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