Coach defends Cheteshwar Pujara, slams Karnataka team for 'false appeals'
Countering criticism of Cheteshwar, Sitanshu Kotak blasts Karnataka for falsely appealing several times
Umpiring howlers seem to have taken away the sheen from Saurashtra's march to the Ranji Trophy final for the third time. Cheteshwar Pujara's sublime unbeaten 131 and Sheldon Jackson's 100 helped Saurashtra clinch an emphatic five-wicket win against Karnataka at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium yesterday.
However, the debate centered around India's Test batsman Pujara, who did not walk [batting on 32 on Day Four] despite perceived to have edged to wicketkeeper S Sharath. Umpire Saiyed Khalid just refused to raise his finger even as Karnataka skipper R Vinay Kumar and his teammates vociferously appealed in unison.
Saurashtra's Cheteshwar Pujara flicks during the Ranji Trophy semis v Karnataka on Sunday. Pic/PTI
Pujara to the rescue
Making the most of his luck factor, Pujara put on a match-winning 214-run fourth wicket partnership with Jackson after Saurashtra were reduced to 23-3 in their second innings. Pujara remained unbeaten to ensure Saurashtra score the remaining 55 runs needed on the last day to achieve the 279-run target without much hiccups.
Saurashtra's coach Sitanshu Kotak jumped into Pujara's defence for not walking. "I don't think it makes any sense [to criticise Pujara]. In my career, I would have got 20 to 30 ridiculously bad decisions and never has anyone called me back because the opposition were so happy that Kotak was out. Pujara is a far better player than me. If somebody calls you back when you are not out, then you are allowed to walk against them. Honestly, you feel you should walk, but it is unfair to the team because when he is actually not out and still given out, nobody calls you back," Kotak told mid-day from Bangalore.
Saurashtra coach Sitanshu Kotak (right) posted this team celebration on Facebook
Kotak accused Karnataka of false appeals during the semi-final clash. "Karnataka can cry, but when they got Prerak Mankad out [on 0 in the first innings], caught behind by appealing wrongly even as the ball was relatively far away from the bat, why didn't they recall Prerak? They got Prerak wrongly out and were happy with it.
The wicketkeeper knew, the bowler knew... so why didn't they call him back? You want Pujara to be honest, but you don't want to be honest. You cannot have it both ways.
"If they had sporting spirit, why would they falsely appeal? At least we didn't make any false appeal. Karnataka were showing desperation because they may have felt hard done by [with Pujara's decision]," said Kotak.
'Crowd wrong to boo Pujara'
Pujara was reportedly booed by the Chinnaswamy crowd with chants of 'cheater cheater'. "It is wrong on the crowd's part. Has Vinay Kumar ever called a batsman back in his career for being given out wrongly? If he has not done so then he has no right to complain," said Kotak.
"As long as the umpire is not doing it purposely. He's human, he can make mistakes. You have to go with the decision and accept it. There were so many decisions which went against us as well... at least five to six. But we haven't complained. Vinay was out leg before, but the umpire said it was bat and pad. [Abhimanyu] Mithun and Mayank [Agarwal] were also clearly out leg before but were given not out. The decisions were even for both teams," he added.
Kotak also highlighted Sauashtra's better record against Karnataka. In the last three clashes before the semi-final, Saurashtra had two outright wins [in 2018-19 and 2016-17] and a first innings lead in the 2012-13 quarter-final. "So, no point finding excuses about losing due to bad decisions," concluded Kotak.
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