'He did the dirty work': Harbhajan takes indirect dig at Virat Kohli, names India's 'unsung hero' in Tests
Harbhajan Singh has issued a noteworthy statement about the India star, who he believes has been an ‘unsung hero’ for the team for several years.
After India suffered another painful defeat in the final of an ICC event, the Rahul Dravid-coached side has made a series of noteworthy changes to their squad for the next cycle of the ICC World Test Championship (WTC). Since the start of the prestigious tournament, Team India has always made it to the final but has failed to cross the final hurdle both times. The two-time runners-up will be eager to end their long wait for an ICC title in the third season of the ICC tournament.
India will launch its bid for a maiden WTC title with the upcoming Test series against hosts West Indies. Following their defeat to Australia in the previous WTC final, India handed maiden call-ups to three youngsters for the two-match Test series against the West Indies. Exciting young talents Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Mukesh Kumar have made it to the Test squad of the Indian team for the first time on the back of some consistent performances in domestic cricket as well as for India A.
Opting to invest in the younger generation, the Asian giants have rested senior pacer Mohammed Shami while veteran batter Cheteshwar Pujara was dropped from the Test squad. Pujara, who recently turned 35, has been India's No.3 batter for several years. Known for his ultra-defensive approach, the senior batter had a couple of forgetful outings against Australia in the WTC final. Rohit Sharma's Team India is expected to unveil a new No.3 batter in the Caribbean following the non-selection of Pujara.
'Pujara has been an unsung hero of Indian team': Harbhajan
In his blunt assessment ahead of the Test series opener between India and the West Indies, former cricketer Harbhajan Singh hailed Pujara as one of the pillars of strength of Team India. The two-time World Cup winner observed that Pujara has been an unsung hero for several years. "I have a lot of respect for Chesteshwar Pujara for what he has achieved. He has been an unsung hero of the Indian team for many years now. He has been one of those pillars of strength for India, doing the dirty work of hanging in there, making sure other batters got their comfort," Harbhajan told news agency PTI.
Seeking respect for the senior batter, Harbhajan also pointed out that Pujara was not the only batter who failed to live up to expectations in the WTC final. Besides Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur, no Indian batter managed to cross the 50-run mark in the summit clash against Australia. In an indirect nudge at the legendary Virat Kohli, who too has been horribly our of form in red-ball cricket, Harbhajan pointed out the similarities between his and Pujara's averages in the last WTC cycle.
"I believe he needs to be given a bit more respect than what he has been given and the way he was chucked out of the team was a surprise for me. Because he isn't the only one not scoring runs. There are others as well who play in that same team who are scoring runs at same average," Harbhajan said.
Kohli and Pujara were India's top two run-getters in the last WTC cycle but their averages of 32.13 and 32 were a big concern.
'Team India still needs Pujara': Harbhajan
Defending Pujara's strike rate, the bowling icon also claimed India still need a player like the Saurashtra superstar in its batting lineup. Pujara has amassed 7195 runs in 103 Test matches for India. The 35-year-old made his Test debut against the Baggy Greens at the M.Chinnaswamy Stadium back in 2010.
"In case of Pujara, we keep hearing about his strike-rate of scoring runs in Tests but because of that strike-rate, the wickets remain intact and that's a huge contribution. So you have to see which guy is contributing what. You need to see how much the team needs him. In my opinion, the team still needs him. When you go abroad (SENA countries), you need one such batter as you can't have everyone playing strokes all the time. You need someone who plays normal Test cricket, just like Chesteshwar Pujara," Harbhajan added.