India v Australia, 3rd Test, Ranch, 5th day March 20, 2017

'Pujara is priceless for the team' - Kohli

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Kohli sings Pujara's praises

Following the drawn Test in Ranchi, Virat Kohli has hailed Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha for overcoming a difficult situation and taking India to a position from where they could have won the match. When Saha joined Pujara in the post-tea session on day three, India were 328 for 6 in reply to Australia's 451. They went on to add 199, and India eventually declared with a 152-run first-innings lead.

Australia were four down and still trailing by 89 runs at one stage on the fifth day, with more than two sessions of play still left, but India couldn't quite push on and win, with Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh batting out 62 overs while adding 124 for the fifth wicket. Kohli said he wasn't surprised Australia, the world's second-ranked Test side, fought the way they did.

"Everyone has to take responsibility equally on the field and our players want to do that," Kohli said in his post-match press conference. "Conditions were such in the first innings that it wasn't easy for the bowlers, the pitch was very good. It played very well in the first two innings. In the second innings, [Australia] batted well so it ended in a draw.

"But where we were in the first innings, 450 [451] was the [Australian] score and we were 320-odd for 6. From there to make 600 was a very difficult task. We put ourselves in a position to win, so we feel it was a very good effort from us to get into a winning situation.

"But then again, if you are playing against the No. 2 side, you will expect that they will come out and fight, not just roll over. Everyone has his point of view. We will look at our positives and we are happy with where we brought the game to after just one innings. We didn't need to bat in the second innings. But they had to play for a draw. Like I said, they will look at their positives, we will look at our positives and move forward. There is still one match to go, both [teams] will give it their best."

Kohli said the bowlers had struggled to extract help from the pitch when the ball grew older and softer, but did not want to stress the point and take credit away from Handscomb and Marsh.

"They batted very well," Kohli said. "Four down by lunch, and after that they didn't lose a wicket in the entire session. So credit to them, when someone plays well, you have to give them credit, we understand that.

"But we are also very happy with our efforts. [Ravindra] Jadeja's bowling was outstanding in this match. All the bowlers bowled very well but Jadeja in my opinion was standout. If you look at his economy, on this pitch it was high-class bowling and showed why he is the joint No. 1 bowler [in the ICC rankings for Test bowlers] alongside Ashwin."

Kohli: 'Saha is one guy who is always willing to do anything for the team' © Associated Press

Pujara won the Player-of-the-Match award for his innings of 202 off 525 balls, which was the longest ever by an Indian batsman (in Tests with ball data available). That knock took Pujara's tally for 2016-17 to 1259 runs at an average of 66.26.

"You know, sometimes I really feel bad for him," Kohli said, when asked about Pujara's contributions through the season. "People don't understand his importance so much in this team and what a valuable player he is for us. He is the most composed player we have in the team, he is willing to grind for his runs, he doesn't mind batting under pressure, he likes to take a challenge of batting.

"So someone like that is priceless to have in the team. When the pressure situation comes up, he is someone who will put his hand up and play long for the team and hold up one end, which I think is a great quality in him. This season he has been outstanding. I don't know the number of runs he has scored but he has contributed throughout. He has not been spoken about much or has been in the focus too much but he deserves much more than that. People need to stand up and take notice of what he has done this season, he has been outstanding with the bat and hopefully he will continue that in the last Test."

Saha, Kohli said, was similarly underappreciated. "See, Saha's knock again was brilliant for us. He's always stood up when the team needs him and this game was no different. His partnership with Pujara was the reason we had a go at winning this Test. A lot of credit goes to him also.

"Again, [he has] not been mentioned too much but he deserves a lot of credit. He's one guy who is always willing to do anything for the team. Wherever we ask him to bat, he bats. He has no problems in batting after [R] Ashwin, before Ashwin, whenever we want him to do it. He plays any kind of role - positive, defensive, you know, whatever we ask him to do, he never says no.

"So you really really feel glad for a guy like that. He's willing to do anything for the team and put his best foot forward. As I said, I'm really happy he performed in a big pressure match, in a difficult situation and put us in a position to have a shot at winning the game."

Mohammed Shami, who has not played for India since suffering a leg injury during the Test series against England, is making a phased return to action. He bowled in the nets in the lead-up to both the Bengaluru and Ranchi Tests, but has not been named in India's Test squad yet. He has also played 50-over games for Bengal in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, and on Monday took four wickets in the tournament final against Tamil Nadu. Kohli said he hadn't spoken to the selectors yet about Shami's availability for the fourth Test in Dharamsala, but hinted that it could happen.

"Yeah, Shami also we sent him to play [the Vijay Hazare Trophy] because we saw him bowling 10-12 overs in a go, and we wanted to give him some match practice." Kohli said. "I don't know [about his selection], I haven't spoken to the selectors still. All kinds of possibilities approaching the next Test."

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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  • sachin_vvsfan on March 22, 2017, 18:45 GMT

    Dear Kohli . Its time to let your bat do all the talking. Want to see those days again when you stopped celebrating after century but kept on batting.

  • Raz2802 on March 22, 2017, 17:22 GMT

    NAMPALLY, it seems you are not able to understand the Gist of my line of thinking on a batting strike rate of around 75 in Tests, at all. Instead you are employing Strawman's arguments to counter my views.

    But now you've realised the fact that "in T20 you can go over 200 too" which surely is an improvement on your describing my S/R 75 observation as "equating a Test match to T20". Good!

    ---------------- Now I have never hinted at "lifetime S/R of 75"! Have I? So why raise the issue? Ok…forget 75 what about 65? Is it expecting too much for any decent batsmen to have a strike-rate around 65 on a regular basis, esp. on batting tracks (and in normal circumstances)? NO!

    But you rarely see that? Why waste time doing tuk…tuk…tuk when you can easily steal a single here and there - which the same batsmen regularly do ODIs?

    That is the gist!

    ----------------------

    We failed to win in Ranchi because of very slow batting strike-rates and the strange failure of R Ashwin (only 2 wkts).

  • Dee_D on March 22, 2017, 16:57 GMT

    Strike rate was the anthem on WI tour. Look what strike rate does in critical test match situations.

  • jimmyvida on March 22, 2017, 16:52 GMT

    I don't care what others are saying. Lets go by history. Pujara was batting well in the West Indies and dropped because his scoring rate was low. OK! he made 200. So what! He scored at a very slow rate. I am kindly asking, is it time to drop him again or is he goping to be let off with a stern warning. Kumble was also in charge in the WI.

  • Cricklover2327 on March 22, 2017, 16:24 GMT

    @Assertive-Indian. so you mean all Australians scored runs on the Australian roads are good for nothing? What about Steven smith or David Warner?? Each and every player will have a form slump in their career. It is really good that Kohli has come across one in this series. Other batsmen stood up for the team and batted well. I dont see any issues with his poor run. If he get some runs in the next match then you will see him bounce back strongly in upcoming series. No one can write off a guy like kohli. So called english pitches are not difficult for him either. He is a strong character who wants to dominate everywhere and he will without any problems. Wait and watch...Cricinfo, how many posts should i post for you to publish? I could see you publish so many posts from one single user. I hope this post will knock your door and get published.

  • Jose...P on March 22, 2017, 16:07 GMT

    While applauding Pujara's wonderful feat, in avoiding a potential loss for India, the following article may be worth a read.

    Perhaps, as a palliative, I am offering to those who may continue to attack both Pujara, and the multitude of the cricket fans, who did, and do, appreciate his great efforts.

    Just redirecting the traffic to Boycott, back into history. Enjoy, all the ire you can find in those columns & inches!

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/583298.html

  • Naresh28 on March 22, 2017, 14:32 GMT

    Agree with @nampally. Dont blame something that happened earlier. Its time this Indian team realize that we are carrying non-performing passengers. Some have been given golden opportunities but did not grab them. We have some youngsters in Iyer,Agarwal,Pant who knocking on doors to get in. Our bowling was lacking and Ashwin is out of form. The next game depends a lot on him. When you have 4 bowlers with one out of form your bowlers are handicapped. I wait for the return of Shami a wicket taking bowler.

  • Nampally on March 22, 2017, 13:13 GMT

    @RAZ2802: In the history of Test Cricket there isn't a single batsman who had a lifetime S/R of 75,or even over a long innings. I don't know the S/R of Don Bradman. In ODI a S/R of 75 + is a necessity & in T20 you can go over 200 too. The point I am trying to make is that the bowling & rules in Test Cricket are not conducive to a S/R of 75 on a "consistently long" basis. Pujara saved the match for India by keeping one end intact in long partnerships with Vijay & Nair & ground the Aussie bowers down by his defence. I look at his innings from this POW. He may have ground both Cummins & Hazzlewood to be ineffective for 4th Test as well! That remains to be seen. Many are blaming Pujara, wrongly for his slow S/R, which they feel, deprived India of a "W". In my opinion, it is the Bowlers(with good catching) who win the matches & poor batting results in losses. Clearly the Indian bowlers were in-effective(no excuses) to remove Handscombe, who saved the day for Australia via good batting!

  • cenitin on March 22, 2017, 10:08 GMT

    @Nampally Sir that pitch is not very friendly for bowlers. Even if any team got some quick wickets still there was always a chance of some big partnership. Once batsman in, its very difficult to get them out in that slow wicket. Don't forget we has been playing continuously in this season and our players specially are tired and not 100%. I told you he is one of the reason. The first and most critical reason is this Aus team have trust on their defence. And they are willing to grind out. You can observe same in each 3 tests. Our bowlers also under performed. And that's my point too a good team give their bowlers enough time. You can't expect them to bowled out a good and confident side in 100 overs every now and then on a decent pitch.

  • Raz2802 on March 22, 2017, 10:00 GMT

    NAMPALLY, I agree and also disagree with some of your comments on my previous post.

    ----------------------

    Talking about scoring at a strike rate of 75 in Test is not like "equating a Test match to T20". FYKI, in T20 you have to score at a minimum strike rate of 100 and even more. And batting with a strike rate of 75 does not mean "going for the bowling just like Kohli did".

    You can bat normally and still maintain a strike rate of 75 (after settling down initially, that is). This is easily possible on a batting pitch like in Ranchi.

    --------------------

    Yes, I agree, Pujara is not the only reason why we failed to win the Test. Shockingly, R Ashwin was a FLOP in Ranchi. I'd mentioned Pujara's slow strike-rate in the context of getting more time to bowl the Aussies out. It seems you've overlooked this.

    ---------------

    Finally, batting with a strike-rate of 75 is very much possible on a batting pitch, even without batting in an aggressive manner at all.

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