“From my point of view, strike rates are only relevant to bowlers in Test cricket, not batsmen.” With this statement, Anil Kumble punched a few holes in the growing theory that batsmen need to keep a watch on the balls consumed.
That this theory has been hypothesised by no other than Virat Kohli recently goes on to show how important it is at times to rein in aggression. Kumble did just that by reminding that not everything should be judged statistically.
The talk started after the Kanpur Test when Kohli said he had asked Cheteshwar Pujara to improve his strike rate during the tour of West Indies. Former chief selector Sandeep Patil was also quoted as saying the same.
What doesn’t help Pujara’s case is a string of poor scores in the West Indies --- 16 off 67 in Antigua and 46 off 159 balls in Kingston before he was dropped. But he made amends after coming back, raking up good scores in the Duleep Trophy before giving a fair account in the Kanpur Test with scores of 62 and 78.
Every coaching manual will instruct a batsman to leave the good deliveries in the early stage of his innings till the time he is on top of the conditions. Pujara is one of those naturally defensive players who take more time than usual to get going. But is that necessarily bad? Kumble doesn’t think so.
“I know there is a lot of strike rate in the last eight years after the advent of T20. In the team you need different characters, different players with skill sets which are suited to challenges in a Test match. Because every session can be different in a Test match,” said Kumble.
A lot of this discussion has got to do with the fact that India have been trotting along unbeaten in five series now. In the face of a serious challenge, India need someone who can shut out the bowlers. Pujara does more than that. Kumble harped on that utility of Pujara.
“You need to bat based on the situations,” said Kumble. “Yes, Virat is right that someone like Pujara in the West Indies, probably on one occasion…and he only played two innings. And both those innings were relevant.
“Even in the first Test, (Murali) Vijay got out cheaply. He and Shikhar (Dhawan) had a good partnership till lunch, which was crucial for the team as we went into lunch losing only one wicket. We all know the importance of the first session in a Test of a series. So the relevance of Pujara is there. I’m extremely surprised and a bit disappointed this talk keeps coming up. He’s a very important cog in our plans,” he said.