Dilip Vengsarkar believes Cheteshwar Pujara must keep playing county cricket for England

May 08, 2018, 07:26 IST | Harit N Joshi

Cheteshwar Pujara along with Ishant Sharma are reportedly returning to India for the Afghanistan Test and then return to England to rejoin their respective county teams

Cheteshwar Pujara bats for Yorkshire during the County Championship Division One match against Nottinghamshire in Leeds on April 20. Pic/Getty Images
Cheteshwar Pujara bats for Yorkshire during the County Championship Division One match against Nottinghamshire in Leeds on April 20. Pic/Getty Images

As MSK Prasad & Co get set to pick the Indian team for the one-off Test against Afghanistan along with a host of other squads (India's limited overs tour to Ireland and England as well as for the India 'A' tri-series & four-day matches), former chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar felt Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara should stay put in England rather than return to India for the June 14-18 Bangalore Test.

Pujara along with Ishant Sharma are reportedly returning to India for the Afghanistan Test and then return to England to rejoin their respective county teams. Yorkshire (of which Pujara is part of) and Sussex (whom Ishant represents) don't have first-class fixtures during the Afghanistan Test. Yorkshire will play Hampshire on
June 20.

Dilip Vengsarkar
Dilip Vengsarkar

"If Pujara is a certainty for the England Test series then he should stay in England and get thoroughly acclimatised to the conditions," said Vengsarkar, who was the chief selector when India last won a Test series in England in 2007. Pujara is experiencing a torrid time in the County Championship Division One, managing just 83 runs in six innings for Yorkshire, his highest score being 41 against Essex in his last match at Chelmsford.

'Priority is England tour'
"The England tour is the priority, so it will be better for Pujara if he stays there for maximum time. I don't see any point in him returning for the Afghanistan Test as that will not help him for the England series," Vengsarkar opined. In such a scenario, Vengsarkar sees Ajinkya Rahane, who will lead the Indian team in the absence of regular skipper Virat Kohli, taking Pujara's batting position. "Rahane can bat at No.3," the former India skipper said.

This would also settle the debate of who should get a look-in between Rohit Sharma and in-form Shreyas Iyer to fill Kohli's spot. "Rohit can bat at No. 4 and Shreyas can come in at No.5," Vengsarkar said. Going by Prasad & Co's pattern of selection, Iyer is likely to find a place of Kohli for the Afghanistan Test. The Mumbai batsman had been called as a cover for injured Kohli during the Dharamsala Test against Australia in March 2017.

Pick Gurbani
Vengsarkar also suggested that Vidarbha pacer Rajneesh Gurbani should be included in the squad for the Afghanistan Test. "He was the most consistent domestic pace bowler last season; among the top wicket-takers (39 in six Ranji matches) as well. He needs to be rewarded. This is the best time to experiment," said Vengsarkar, who felt Gurbani can be picked in place of his statemate Umesh Yadav.

Gurbani played a stellar role in Vidarbha not just reaching its maiden Ranji Trophy final, but also winning the title. In the summit clash against Delhi at Indore, Gurbani became the second bowler in India's Ranji Trophy history to claim a hat-trick in the final. Umesh is bowling at blistering pace in the Indian Premier League for Royal Challengers Bangalore but warmed the bench during the recent three-Test series in South Africa.

Vengsarkar's XI
Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Shreyas Iyer, Wriddhiman Saha, Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (only if fully fit) or Rajneesh Gurbani and Jasprit Bumrah.
12th man: Ravindra Jadeja

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