Dubai: Lalchand Rajput, one of the most experienced coaches in contemporary cricket and an ex-coach of Cheteshwar Pujara, said the latter should not be pushed too hard into one-day cricket.
Speaking to Gulf News, Rajput, who was in Dubai to conduct a coaching camp at the M.S. Dhoni Cricket Academy, said: “Pujara should focus on what he is good at and should not try and play like a one-day batsman. In Test matches, you want a batsmen who can occupy the crease and I think that [format] is the ideal place for him.”
Pujara has been the architect of India’s historic Test series win against Australia recently. Rajput, talking about his ward in India Under-19 days, said: “Even as an Under-19 cricketer, Pujara used to bat and bat and never used to throw away his wicket. If he got out, he would come inside and say that he should have continued to bat. Earlier he used to just block and occupy the crease but now he has started to playing a little differently by rotating the strike and more positively.
“Pujara believes that if he can bat the whole day, he can automatically get a hundred. Whether he faces 200 or 300 balls, it doesn’t matter, he tells himself to bat the whole day.”
When asked whether Pujara should strive to play in all formats, Rajput said: “In one day cricket, you have to be a good fielder and should be good in running between the wickets. After being operated on both the knees, I think, Pujara will struggle a bit in the fielding department. In Test matches, he fields in close-in positions and it suits him.”
Rajput, currently at the helm of Zimbabwe, does not agree on Pujara being compared with Rahul Dravid. “I don’t believe in comparing the two. They are two different types of batsmen. Rahul has achieved that honour of being called ‘The Wall’ after playing for long. Now, Pujara is catching up and has got lots of concentration and that is a good sign.”
It was under Rajput’s guidance that a young Mahendra Singh Dhoni lead Team India to victory in the first-ever T20 World Cup in 2007, while he also brought a turnaround in Afghanistan’s fortunes. When asked to compare between up and coming wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant with Dhoni, he said: “Pant and Dhoni should not be compared. What Dhoni has done to Indian cricket, it would be difficult for anyone else as a wicketkeeper-captain to do it. I started my coaching for India for the first time when he became the captain of the Indian team and from there onwards, he has never looked back.
“He knows how to get the best from each player and he will never show emotions. That is the best thing as a captain that is why the players really give the best performance under him.”
Rajput, who hails from Mumbai, had also watched Rohit Sharma’s rise from school cricket. “I’ve seen Rohit from under-15 stage and when he gets going, he makes all the art of batting look so easy. He has lot of time to play his shots and he has done so much in one day cricket. Right now, people are expecting so much from him that it seems he is falling short. In one day cricket, I feel he is still the master. He can win matches on his own and when he gets going the bowling looks so easy.”