Ahead of the Test series opener, Virat Kohli has stated that the criticism around Cheteshwar Pujara’s slow batting is unnecessary and also revealed that the Indian no.3 doesn’t pay heed to such opinions. He also added that Shardul Thakur is a multi-dimensional player who is important to the side.
Cheteshwar Pujara has been under fire for a while now. While earlier there were questions around his slow batting or lack of intent in the middle, now he’s facing scrutiny for his inconsistent displays. Since the start of 2020, in 20 Tests outings, the right-hander has failed to score a century yet. In 2021, he has averaged 30.33 with the willow in hand and was a major disappointment for India in the WTC finale as well. He had also failed to get a big knock under his belt even against a below-par County XI side in the warm-up game.
However, after Ajinkya Rahane, Indian skipper Virat Kohli has also thrown his weight behind Pujara. He said that the criticism around Pujara’s slow batting is unnecessary.
“The criticism has been going for a while. I honestly feel a player of Pujara’s caliber should be left alone. Everyone is responsible for the team. The criticism is unnecessary, but I know for a fact that Pujara doesn’t care. People can say what they want but at the end of the the day they are just words,” Kohli stated in the virtual presser, ahead of tomorrow’s Test.
Shardul Thakur wasn’t part of the Indian side in the WTC finale but with the pitches likely to favour the seam bowlers, he’s likely to play as a seam-bowling all-rounder for India in the series. Talking about him, Kohli stated that he’s a great talent and will be important for the team in the future.
“Shardul Thakur is already a multi-dimensional cricketer. It’s all about him getting confidence with games like Brisbane. Hardik Pandya has done such a role for us in the past. He’s getting back on track to bowling regularly now. These kind of players bring a good balance to the team. Shardul is a huge prospect for us and someone who is going to very important even in the future.”
India landed in the UK in early June for the WTC finale against New Zealand. Even after the end of the game, the team didn’t return home as they were slated to play the five-match Test series in England, and with COVID protocols in place, they had to stay back in the country despite a big break in between. But that has immensely benefited the team as Virat feels that India are better adapted to the conditions and weather, far better than before.
“We are definitely much better prepared than in the past. We have got acclimatized to the weather be it overcast or anything else. The weather changes quickly in this part of the world but we have got used to it. Now, we are mentally far more comfortable and our body is also well adapted to England.”
He also added that India would make full use of their experience from the last tour and reckoned that someone or the other will stand up for the team this time around in each of the games.
“We have a more experienced side than the last tour. We have players who can help the team recover from tough situations even if some of the younger players don’t manage to. I believe someone or the other will put their hand up and help us do well in each of the games.”
Ben Stokes, keeping in mind his mental health, has taken an indefinite break from cricket. Reflecting on the same, the 32-year-old asserted that things like that will happen more often.
“Periodic breaks are important for the players. I’m sure more players will take breaks like Ben Stokes has, just to cope with this tough bubble life. I think this break in the past month came at the right time for me.”
Unlike the earlier Tests, Kohli didn’t reveal India’s playing XI, a day before the game and said that they will announce the XI only during the toss time. With the series, Virat Kohli is also set to face his familiar foe, James Anderson, albeit, for the final time in the UK conditions. When asked about his preparations for facing Anderson, Kohli said, “I will just bat”.