When Chennai Super Kings made a bid for Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara at his base price of Rs 50 lakh in the 2021 IPL auction, the house roared with thunderous applause as a mark of respect to the great servant of Indian cricket. Pujara has been without an IPL contract since 2014 and was expected to go unsold this time as well, but CSK did the unexpected by bidding for him. Their reasoning was that they need a backup for Suresh Raina if the southpaw gets injured during the tournament.
Although IPL is deemed as a tournament for young players who were born and raised on this slam-bang version of cricket, Test cricketers also have had a say in this format. In fact, Test specialists such as Pujara deserve an IPL contract. Cricwizz takes a look.
They can anchor the innings
Test specialists such as Pujara put a big price tag on their wickets and can anchor the innings in the shortest format as well. T20 cricket too needs batsmen who can hold one end up, while attacking players unleash their strokes from the other end. Hence, it is a smart move from CSK to gamble on Pujara as he could come extremely handy on Indian pitches where there is turn and bounce and can hold the innings together. On these pitches, his run-a-ball 30s and 40s would be extremely valuable in a low-scoring affair.
T20 team needs a balance
If the T20 team is packed with just stroke players, there could be collapses that would hurt the team’s chances. In those cases, a purist batsman like Pujara can bring normalcy to the proceedings, and play on merit, and take the team to a safe score. Earlier, CSK have done well with batsmen such as S Badrinath whose 30-run cameos on Indian pitches at a strike rate of 100 or below were worth in gold.
Test players too can adapt and score quickly
Who said T20 cricket is only for stroke players, and Test specialists can’t thrive? Take Rahul Dravid for instance. He was considered unfit for ODIs due low to strike rate, but he molded his game and even took keeping duties to suit the shorter format. Later, he made smart changes to his batting to became a valuable batsman in T20 cricket as well and played IPL for various teams before retiring from professional cricket. For the record, Pujara had scored a ton in T20s, and hence, it is just a myth that Test specialists can’t do well in T20s.
T20 will make them better Test cricketers
It’s another myth that playing the shortest format will alter your technique and make you unfit for Test cricket. Look at Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson – who play all three formats with great success. They just make minor adjustments playing different formats, and thrive in all of them.
Hence, it’s a masterstroke by CSK to bet money on Pujara who, for sure, would be looking to alter his image as just a Test specialist.
Cover image courtesy: Cheteshwar Pujara's Facebook page