Kumble: 'Pujara very important to the team'

The No. 3 batsman's strike rate has improved since the West Indies tour, where he scored 62 in two innings at 31.00.

Anil Kumble India New Zealand Pujara

"I know there is a lot of strike rate in the last eight years after the advent of T20. As far as I was concerned, when I was playing in Test cricket strike rate was spoken about bowlers, not batsmen," said Kumble, on Pujara's strike rate.   -  PTI

India’s cricket coach Anil Kumble sought to shoot down the talk about the strike rate of his team’s top order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara saying that the “relevance” of the latter has been misjudged.

“He is a very important cog in our plans. He has been successful and I know that he will continue to be successful,” Kumble said about Pujara when he was put to the question about the talk on the batsman’s striker rate.

“We all know the importance of first session in a Test. So the relevance of Pujara is there. I am extremely surprised and a bit disappointed that this talk keeps coming up. As long as someone reads the situation and plays according to the situation a team cannot expect anything more from him,” Kumble said.

The talk about Pujara’s strike rate happened during India’s tour of the West Indies in July, which was revealed recently by Sandip Patil after he completed his tenure as the chairman of selectors. Calling himself a “bit old fashioned”, Kumble observed with a chuckle that the talk about strike-rate is misplaced as he always felt that it applied to a bowler.

“I know there is a lot of talk on strike rate in the last eight years after the advent of T20. As far as I was concerned, when I was playing in Test cricket strike rate was spoken about bowlers, not batsmen. That’s how I looked at it,” Kumble said “In the team you need different characters and players with skill sets which are suited to challenges in a Test match. It is because every session can be different in a Test match. From my point of view, strike rates are only relevant to bowlers in Test cricket, not the batsmen,” he added.

Kumble welcomed Gautam Gambhir, who has been recalled in place of injured opener KL Rahul, back in the squad saying that the player deserves a place for having done well in domestic cricket. “Gautam has been done really well in domestic cricket. He is a part of the 15 (member squad). I do not want to give away anything more now as all 15 are available for selection. But it is nice to have him back,”

Kumble said. “It is unfortunate (K.L.) Rahul got injured in the last Test match. I think something’s happening with the openers. For some reason they are getting injured. (Murali) Vijay got injured in West Indies and now Rahul. It is unfortunate as Rahul was batting brilliantly,” Kumble wondered about the recurrent injuries to the openers.

The Indian coach also praised Rohit Sharma saying his batting form in the second innings (against New Zealand in the first Test at Kanpur) “augurs well” for the team. “His batting form in the second innings augurs well for the team. In the first innings he was disappointed with the way he got out. He is aware of this and in the second innings he played a brilliantly. That 100-plus partnership with (Ravindra) Jadeja was crucial to take the game away from the New Zealanders. It is not just good for the team but I am sure it would have given boost to his confidence,” Kumble said.

With the monsoon still persisting in the region and the rain threat looming large on the venue – Eden Gardens – Kumble said his team is ready to adapt to any condition. “I did not have a look at the wicket. It is early in the season and there has been a lot of rain in the region. I hope rain does not play the spoilsport during the Test. It will be a good wicket. We have the squad to encounter any challenge and adapt to whatever conditions we get. We are not really worried too much about the pitch. We have all our bases covered,” the Indian coach said.

When quizzed about the slackening form of New Zealand’s prolific opener Martin Guptill, who put up struggle in the first Test, Kumble humorously said it would benefit India. “Well, it is never easy for someone to come to the subcontinent and play his shots. He is a stroke-maker. We know Guptill is a quality player and its not easy coming to the subcontinent when not on good form,” Kumble said. “From our perspective we hope that (Guptill’s struggle) continues. It is important for the opposition, who would like the openers to get out early. That’s what we like to look at doing,” Kumble remarked.

Kumble also remarked on the visitor bringing in off-spinner Jeetan Patel as a replacement of injured Mark Craig and said that the host will be watchful. “We know he (Patel) played a lot for New Zealand. He has done well in the county championship recently as well. We know quite a bit about what he can do.” Kumble said.