3 reasons why Cheteshwar Pujara may have played his last Test in the WTC final vs Australia

Australia v India - ICC World Test Championship Final 2023: Day Four
Cheteshwar Pujara looks dejected after being dismissed by Pat Cummins on Day 4 of the WTC final. (Pic: Getty Images)

There were high hopes from veteran Indian batter Cheteshwar Pujara in the World Test Championship (WTC) 2023 final against Australia. He had been playing county cricket in England and it was being said that he was best prepared to take on the Aussies in the summit clash at The Oval.

Hopes of Indian fans were raised since Pujara had an impressive stint with Sussex, scoring 545 runs in eight innings at an average of 68.12. Former England spinner Monty Panesar had even termed the No. 3 batter India’s X-factor because he had done very well in these English conditions for Sussex.

Things, however, did not go as per plans for Pujara as he failed in both innings of the WTC final. He was dismissed in an uncharacteristic fashion on both occasions.

In the first innings, he tentatively left a delivery from Cameron Green and was bowled for 14. In the second essay, with India being set a massive target of 444, he was dismissed for 27, attempting a cheeky upper cut off Pat Cummins’ bowling.

In the wake of Pujara’s twin failures in the WTC final, we look at three reasons why the ongoing match might be his last Test for India.


#1 Pujara has failed to grab his opportunities

The No. 3 batter has registered scores of 14 and 27 in the WTC final. (Pic: Getty Images)
The No. 3 batter has registered scores of 14 and 27 in the WTC final. (Pic: Getty Images)

It cannot be denied that the 35-year-old has played a few wonderful knocks for India in recent times.

However, his overall performance in Test cricket over the last couple of seasons has been hugely disappointing. In 24 Tests since the start of 2021, he has scored 1292 runs at an average of 31.51.

While he has averaged 52 in two Tests in Australia during this period and 74 in Bangladesh (also in two Tests), he has registered poor numbers in other countries, including in India. During the phase in question, he has averaged 28.46 from seven Tests in England, 20.66 from three Tests in South Africa, and 24.53 from 10 Tests at home.

Pujara did score 90 and 102* in the Chattogram Test against Bangladesh in December last year. However, in 10 innings since then has managed only one half-century, which came when he scored 59 against Australia in Indore during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. During the four-Test series, he compiled a disappointing 140 runs at an average of just 28.

The seasoned batter has been a major factor in India’s Test wins over the years, especially in overseas conditions. However, it is clear that the numbers and dwindling, and his slump might just be a case of a cricketer going past his prime.


#2 India need to start grooming a new No. 3

The Saurashtra batter has averaged under 32 in Tests since the start of 2021. (Pic: Getty Images)
The Saurashtra batter has averaged under 32 in Tests since the start of 2021. (Pic: Getty Images)

Another reason why India might have to look beyond Pujara is that they need to start grooming a new No. 3 and do it soon. The think tank’s lack of planning is very much evident in the fact that they do not seem to have an alternative for Pujara at the crucial number three position.

Things are in complete contrast to a decade back when Pujara was ready as Rahul Dravid’s replacement at the one-down position for Test matches once the latter announced his retirement.

Cut to the present and there seems to be no proper name in the reckoning to come in for Pujara. Hence, India need to start looking for someone right away.


#3 Pujara is unlikely to be around if India reach the 2025 WTC final

Cheteshwar Pujara in action for Sussex during his county stint. (Pic: Getty Images)
Cheteshwar Pujara in action for Sussex during his county stint. (Pic: Getty Images)

From a future point of view as well, it is possible that the selectors and management might feel continuing with Pujara might not be a smart move.

The right-handed batter is 35-year-old and, given his form over the last couple of years, it is unlikely that he will be around if India make it to the next WTC final in 2025.

As such, the selectors might have to take the tough call of showing Pujara the exit door from the Test team after the WTC final. The resolute Saurashtra batter has been a great servant of Indian cricket for the last decade and has made some invaluable contributions.

Having said that, the time might just be ripe to move on and take a glance at the future.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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