Cheteshwar Pujara not just enjoys the numbers that should make him a serious consideration but also the form to make him an automatic pick. Before the ODI series against England had started, he had just come off a Ranji trophy triple hundred, his second double hundred in a row and third within a month. If it is argued that runs in a different format donít really count, then it can be equally pointed out that he averaged a scarcely believeable 361 at a strike rate of more than a run a ball in the NKP Salve Challenger trophy, the pre-eminent fifty-over tournament in the country, in September-October 2012.
Meanwhile, the Indian team management has made it clear that Pujara will not be allowed to join the Saurashtra team who will take on Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy final on Saturday. That being the case, and also considering that Rohit Sharma, another contestant for a middle-order slot, was made to open to get him into the playing eleven in Mohali with the series in the balance, it is more or less imperative that Pujara be given a chance in the dead rubber in Dharamsala.
The World Cup Down Under is just two years off and it is essential to arrive at a combination that will spend a reasonable amount of time bedding in. A batsman like Pujara who lends stability to the line-up in conditions that aid movement and bounce cannot be underestimated. While it will be absorbing to see how Pujara adapts to his role in the limited overs set-up, it would also be interesting to see where in the batting order the management desires to fit him in.
Raakesh is a senior correspondent based in New Delhi