With India surging to 317/4 at the end of the opening day of the second Test against England, former skipper Sourav Ganguly believes that the Vizag surface will start to turn square from the second day itself.
Speaking to India Today, the 44-year old also backed Cheteshwar Pujara’s ability to be a long-term number three for the Test team and questioned those criticising the Saurashtra batsman’s strike-rate.
Ganguly claimed, “That is always the case in India and on this surface, the toss was crucial. The are rough patches and tomorrow evening – this will turn square and if India gets to 450 or 500, England will have to bat really well. I think India have batted brilliantly on day one and unless and until something happens, they should get to 500-550. The positive part is none of the English spinners have got wickets.”
After winning the toss, India found themselves at a spot of bother as both openers perished without contributing much to the scoreboard. However, skipper Kohli joined hands with Pujara to resurrect their fortunes by putting together 226 runs for the third wicket. The duo targeted the England spinners relentlessly and scored at a healthy run-rate. Despite losing a couple of wickets towards the end of the day, the hosts retained their advantage through Kohli’s unbeaten 151.
Hailing Pujara for his 204-ball 119, Ganguly felt, “All this talk about Pujara's strike-rate is rubbish and I agree with Anil (Kumble) that strike-rates are only for bowlers and not for batsmen. His strike-rate is better than anybody else in the team. You need someone at No. 3 who can change his game according to conditions and Pujara is that batsman. I again repeat he is a must at No. 3 for India and you have to show faith in him.”
The forthright veteran’s views are backed by statistics – During the last five years, Pujara’s strike-rate of 52.96 in Tests played in India is better than that of Kohli* (as of 17th November 2016), Rahane and Vijay. Having been dropped for the third Test against West Indies, the stoic right-hander responded by ending up as the leading run-getter in the New Zealand series aside from smashing consecutive centuries against England.
Another bone of contention surrounding India’s selection policy saw Amit Mishra being dropped for the ongoing second Test in Vizag. Even though both the coach and captain threw their weight behind the leg-spinner publicly, they surprisingly opted to hand over a Test debut to Jayant Yadav.
On India’s unexpected selection, Ganguly affirmed, “A bit harsh on Mishra to get dropped and I feel he bowled well in the second innings of (1st) Rajkot Test. I can understand from where the team management is coming with England having five left-handers. At times you pick horses for courses but the message has to be clear to Mishra that he was not dropped for poor form.”