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With fresh spring in his knees

As Australia’s pacers dismantle an Indian batting line-up comprising ageing stars and inexperienced understudies, the man who could have stood up to them is preparing to turn out for his employers in corporate matches in Mumbai.

other Updated: Jan 10, 2012 01:48 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya

As Australia’s pacers dismantle an Indian batting line-up comprising ageing stars and inexperienced understudies, the man who could have stood up to them is preparing to turn out for his employers in corporate matches in Mumbai.

Cheteshwar Pujara’s rehabilitation following a second knee surgery is complete and the right-hand middle-order batsman has already played four matches in the second half of Saurashtra’s fruitless Ranji Trophy campaign. However, a Test return is not in the immediate thoughts of the 23-year-old, who proved last year that he can translate the promise shown in domestic cricket to runs at international level. Right now, Pujara is wondering if he would make the West Zone team for the Duleep Trophy. “If not, then I will have to focus on the domestic one-dayers and the IPL at the end of the season,” Pujara says. He is currently training at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and will travel to Mumbai in mid-January to play for his employers, the Indian Oil Corporation.

The good news for India is that Pujara’s reconstructed knees have withstood the challenge of four-day cricket after six months on the sidelines. “I am 100% fit,” he says. He has scored a couple of fifties in difficult conditions. “The wickets were not easy to bat on.”

Pujara’s got age on his side, his technique appears sound and he can bat for a long innings. If he remains fit, he can be a mainstay in India's middle-order when senior stars are phased out.

“Pujara is grounded and focused. He will play more matches for India, that’s almost certain,” says Saurashtra coach Debu Mitra. “India are not scheduled to play any Test for quite some time now, so that gives Pujara time to improve his game.”

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