'Pujara was Kohli's only greatest replacement': Ex-India cricketer slams BCCI | Cricket - Hindustan Times

'Cheteshwar Pujara was Virat Kohli's only greatest replacement...': Ex-India cricketer questions BCCI's selection

Feb 15, 2024 06:17 AM IST

Cheteshwar Pujara was ignored by the selectors despite his stunning form in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season.

It isn't the first time India will head into a Test match with an inexperienced lineup. Remember that Gabba tie in 2021? Mohammed Siraj had led the bowling attack; who only made his debut in the early half of the series. However, on Thursday, at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot, against England in the third Test of the five-match series, a pack of novices will comprise India's batting lineup as Virat Kohli and KL Rahul will both be absent from the match owing to their respective reasons. Ahead of the match, former India player Karsan Ghavri blasted BCCI's selection committee for ignoring Cheteshwar Pujara amid the team's major concern, calling him the "great replacement to Kohli" they could have roped in.

India's Cheteshwar Pujara was not considered for the England Test series(AFP)
India's Cheteshwar Pujara was not considered for the England Test series(AFP)

A veteran of 103 Tests, the 36-year-old Pujara, who last featured in the World Test Championship final in June 2023, was snubbed by the selectors despite his stunning form in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season where he recently notched up his 62nd first-class ton in the tie against Rajasthan. It was his second century in the season, where he amassed 648 runs in six matches, including two fifties, and is among the top run-getters in the tournament.

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Although the selectors clarified last year that they are eager to look ahead at younger options, with Kohli unavailable due to personal reasons, Rahul down with injury and Shreyas Iyer dropped due to poor form, Pujara's return seemed a likely option ahead of the third Test. But India instead, they retained Sarfaraz Khan in the lineup and later included Devdutt Padikkal as Rahul's replacement.

‘Don’t understand why Pujara was dropped'

"I don't understand the reason why Cheteshwar Pujara was dropped. He should have been in the Indian team right from the first Test," Ghavri told PTI on the eve of the third Test in Rajkot, the home ground of Pujara.

"At first, Virat Kohli was not playing the first two Tests and now it has been announced that he would not be playing the remaining three Tests. Cheteshwar was not only the greatest replacement but the greatest player they should have included," added the 72-year-old.

Ghavri, lauding Pujara's fighting spirit, reckoned that he wouldn't be surprised if the batter once again made a comeback to the Indian team on the back of a good domestic season.

"He is still fighting, he is still in good form, he is very much in good shape and even if he comes back, I won't be surprised," Ghavri said.

Pujara, who was felicitated along with Ravindra Jadeja and Jaydev Unadkat on Wednesday after Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium was renamed after veteran cricket administrator and former first-class cricketer Niranjan Shah, will play Saurashtra's concluding league match against Manipur from Friday.

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