“Dropping Pujara From Tests A Positive Move”: Lalchand Rajput

Mumbai: Former cricketer Lalchand Rajput said on Friday that India will miss pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 at home, if he is ruled out of the event through injury.

However, he added that the ‘Men in Blue’ will have the home advantage going into the event. The schedule for ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 was announced on Tuesday. India will start its campaign at Chennai against Australia from October 8 and meet arch-rivals Pakistan at Ahmedabad on October 15.

The tournament will get underway from October 5 and will culminate on November 19.
“India has the advantage of playing at home. We hope India wins. Our bowling will be better if Bumrah recovers. We will miss him sorely if he is ruled out through injury. He gives you overs early in the game, in the middle and at death and can get you wickets in any phase of the match,” said Rajput.

Bumrah is believed to be making steady progress with his recovery and is bowling five to seven overs a day at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru, according to NCA sources.

They said Bumrah is recovering steadily from a stress fracture in his back. He is likely to play a practice match at NCA in July. However, the time of his comeback to competitive cricket cannot be predicted for now, sources said.

Bumrah is working on his rehabilitation under the observation of India’s former strength and conditioning coach Ramji Srinivasan.

He has been out of action since September 2022 owing to his injury and missed the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia. He also missed the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, a tournament in which he had played a stellar role for his franchise — the Mumbai Indians. There is hope that he will recover fully before ICC Men’s World Cup, which will be hosted in India from October 5.

In April, Bumrah underwent surgery on his lower back in New Zealand.

Rajput said that dropping batter Cheteshwar Pujara from the Test side for the West Indies tour is a “positive move” as it is aimed at building and grooming youngsters for the next ICC World Test Championship cycle from 2023-25.

Pujara was dropped from the Indian Test side for the tour of the West Indies, which will start from July 12. This came after the veteran of over 100 Tests failed to deliver the goods in the WTC final against Australia. Ruturaj Gaikwad and Yashasvi Jaiswal were rewarded for their consistent performances in domestic cricket and the Indian Premier League (IPL) with their maiden Test call-ups.

“It is a positive move. We have to prepare for the next WTC cycle. You have to bring in youngsters slowly. You have to groom them, ease them into the rigours of international cricket. Hopefully, more young players will be given chances to represent the country. Ruturaj and Jaiswal have made a lot of runs. It (Giving them Test caps) will boost your bench strength,” said Rajput.

On Mumbai star Sarfaraz Khan not getting a national call-up, Rajput said that Ranji Trophy performances are a base for a player to gain experience and expertise to play the longer format at the highest level.

“If he has been making runs but still not getting chances after three years, there must be some reason. I do not know what the reason is. But he should have been given a chance,” he added.

Sarfaraz has been going through a purple patch in his first-class cricket over the last few seasons. The stocky right-hander has scored 3505 runs in 37 first-class matches at an outstanding average of 79.65 and 13 hundreds. His highest knock in domestic cricket is 301*.

In the 2022-23 Ranji Trophy season, Sarfaraz scored 556 runs at an impressive average of 92.66. He has also bagged three centuries in 6 matches.

The Mumbai batter was also the leading run-scorer in the Ranji Trophy 2021-2022, striking 982 runs with an average of 122.75 in six Tests. He had four hundreds under his belt.
In 2019-2020, he was amongst the top five run-getters in the Ranji Trophy. He scored 928 runs with an average of 154.66 in six games with hit three centuries and the career-best knock of 301*.

On Zimbabwe’s amazing performances in ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers, Rajput, who is also the Technical Director of Zimbabwe Cricket, said the team was looking for consistency and years of effort are finally paying off.

“The team is doing well, boys are up to the challenge. We were always looking for consistency. In these Qualifiers, batters are performing consistently, like Craig Ervine, Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza and wicketkeeper-batter Joylord Gumbie. The way Sean is batting is excellent. What we can say about Raza? He is on a purple patch with both bat and ball, gives the team breakthroughs at the right time,” said Rajput.

“The way they are playing, they can upset at least one team. If we qualify for the World Cup, we can give good competition to the big teams and even stage an upset. We have the momentum with. We defeated Pakistan in the T20 World Cup last year.”

“We have good bowlers in Tendai Chatara, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava. We have good spinners too. We are a balanced side,” said Rajput.

Zimbabwe is undefeated in the ongoing ICC CWC qualifiers. Sean Williams (532 runs in five matches with three centuries), Sikandar Raza (260 runs with a century and fifty and nine wickets), Craig Ervine (243 runs in four matches with one century and fifty), Richard Ngarava (12 wickets) have performed admirably for Zimbabwe.

On a possible clash with India in World Cup, Rajput said adapting to the Indian wickets will be extremely important. However, the first step he said is to qualify for the tournament and then think about a match with India.

He predicted India, England, Australia and anyone from Pakistan or South Africa as World Cup finalists.

On returning as coach of the Indian team in future, Rajput said that every player desires to coach his national side, but added, “It is upto the BCCI.”

WC: India, England, Australia, Pakistan/South Africa.

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