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Pujara is vital cog in India's wheel: Kumble

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Kolkata, Sep 28 (IANS) Backing top order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, Indian head coach Anil Kumble on Wednesday described him as a vital cog in the side's wheel and asserted there was no pressure on him from the team management.

"He is a very important cog in our team and we have seen his contribution over the years. Even in the last Test match we saw the importance of his contribution to the team's cause. So I don't see any pressure on anyone in this team," Kumble told reporters at the Eden Gardens here

"The beauty about this squad is that there is hardly any pressure on anyone. Yes there are roles and responsibilities. But there is no pressure," said the legendary leg-spinner.

"I don't think Pujara has ever breathed easy, from the perspective of all of you and some people who are constantly watching him. At least from the team perspective, there is absolutely no pressure on Pujara," he added.

During the recent West Indies tour, Pujara scored 16 off 67 balls and 46 off 159 in the first two Tests, and was left out for Rohit Sharma in the third match.

Former chairman of selectors Sandip Patil had earlier spilled the beans saying Kumble and Kohli were unhappy with Pujara's performances in the Caribbean and advised him to work on his strike rate before the Kanpur Test.

Kumble, however, said strike rates are for bowlers and not batsmen.

"I know there is a lot of talk about strike rate in the last eight years after the advent of T20. As far as I was concerned, when I was playing in Test cricket strike rate was spoken about for bowlers, not batsmen. That's how I looked at it," he said

"In the team you need different characters, you need different quality players, you need different players with skill sets which are suited to challenges in a Test match. Because every session can be different in a Test match, we have seen that. And that's the beauty about Test cricket. From my point of view, strike rates are only relevant to bowlers in Test cricket, not the batsmen."

"You need to bat based on the situations. Even in the first Test (during the Caribbean trip), (Murali) Vijay got out cheaply. He (Pujara) and Shikhar (Dhawan) had good partnership till lunch, which was crucial for the team as we went into lunch losing only one wicket, We all know the importance of the first session in a Test of a series. So the relevance of Pujara is there," he added.

Kumble further said that he was "extremely surprised and a bit disappointed" about such talk.

"I am extremely surprised and a bit disappointed this talk keeps coming up. As long as someone reads the situation and plays according to the situation that's what is expected."

He also spoke about batsman Gautam Gambhir, who is back in the squad after a two-year hiatus due to KL Rahul's injury.

He said it was nice to have the seasoned opener back, but refused to give out whether he would be included in the final eleven.

Kumble backed under-fire batsman Rohit Sharma for his unbeaten second innings knock of 68 at Kanpur.

"His batting form in the second innings augurs well for the team. In the first innings he was disappointed with the way he got out. He's aware of this and in the second innings he played a brilliant innings.

"That 100-plus partnership with Jadeja was crucial to take the game away from the New Zealanders. It ensured that we take the momentum and it carried over after that dominating session. It's not just good for the team but I'm sure it would have given a boost to his confidence," he added.

India will face New Zealand in the second of the three-Test series here from Friday. Kohli and his wards took a 1-0 lead in the opening Test in Kanpur on Monday.

--IANS

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