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Why not Pujara in the final ODI?

Cheteshwar Pujara

Calcutta: It’s odd that while India’s batsmen are struggling and their confidence taking a massive beating, Cheteshwar Pujara, surely the most accomplished technically, is no more than a spectator in South Africa.

That’s because Pujara isn’t a member of the ODI XVI, but is in the Test squad and seen as suited largely for the longest format.

But so was Rahul Dravid, particularly in the later stages of his superb career. Yet, that didn’t stop the selectors from recalling him (after 21 months!) for the 2009 Champions Trophy, in South Africa.

Horses for courses, as they say.

Pujara did play in a couple of ODIs, in Zimbabwe, earlier this year, and nothing stops captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher from asking that he be added for the final ODI, in Centurion.

That ODI is on Wednesday.

As with the other Test specialists, Pujara is already in South Africa, so he doesn’t have to be put on the first available flight to Johannesburg.

[The two-Test series begins on December 18.]

Obviously, everybody won’t be enthused if Pujara comes into contention, but should we bother about egos or try and end the humiliation being heaped on India, the World Cup and Champions Trophy holders?

If lasting only 41 overs in the first ODI (Wanderers) wasn’t bad enough, India’s batsmen did worse at Kingsmead — surviving 35.1 overs!

The same venues will be staging the Tests, the choice suiting South Africa perfectly. But, then, everybody enjoys the home advantage.

Getting back to Pujara, he could come in for Ajinkya Rahane, who was fielded on Sunday, but made no impression.

Of course, Pujara may fall first ball, but at least an effort would have been made to contain the damage being caused by Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

There are no half measures for the duo and Dhoni, under pressure, has admitted that it’s now a “test of character.”

That’s the way it always is in South Africa (and in Australia).

It wasn’t many days ago that Fletcher boldly spoke of the present lot not carrying any “baggage.” He’s gone quiet after the thrashings.

In any case, it wasn’t the most appropriate comment as those who went on previous tours and have since retired could be offended.

“The call has to be taken by Dhoni and Fletcher and the protocol respected... The Board’s permission will be required and the consent of the selection committee chairman (Sandeep Patil) needed...

“It shouldn’t be an issue if the captain and coach wish to add Pujara to the ODI XVI,” one of the selectors told The Telegraph on Monday.

Had the Board not discontinued the policy of sending selectors on tours, Patil and a colleague/two colleagues would have been travelling with the Dhonis.

The selectors used to do nothing, except make the most of all-expenses paid holidays, but being on the spot may be advantageous in certain situations.

Just how well or badly the rest of the tour unfolds is open to speculation, but the Board didn’t do any favour by forcing a truncated visit with no tour-opener.

It’s an absolute must.

So, there are some who need to answer, as settling scores with the Cricket South Africa CEO, Haroon Lorgat, should never have been the Board’s priority.

Sadly, nobody in the Board will raise this as an issue.