Kohli wants a positive batsman at No 3 and I can play positive cricket: Pujara

Ever since Virat Kohli took over as India’s Test captain, the one issue of constant debate has been the batting order. More specifically, the crucial No 3 spot. Kohli had strongly hinted before the Sri Lanka series that he wanted someone with flair at that position.
“We felt that if he (Rohit Sharma) gets going he can take one session away from the opposition. That could be the difference in our winning Test matches,” Kohli had said before the series. “He had done well in Australia when he has batted at three. I think he needs to get more opportunities there. Once he settles down in that slot, he will be the catalyst that we need in the middle-order, who can keep the scoring rate going.”
“Rohit is so naturally gifted and once he is in he got massive scores for Mumbai. So, we want to give him that game time and ample opportunities to get at that big score and in quick time. He does not score slowly and that gives the side more time to bowl those extra 20-odd overs,” Kohli added.
Reading between the lines, it seemed like a direct preference of Rohit Sharma over Cheteshwar Pujara. Rohit played just a solitary Test at No 3, however, with Ajinkya Rahane playing that role in the last two matches.
When Pujara did get his chance, it was injury-enforced and he was told to open the innings – he responded in style with an unbeaten 145 in Colombo.
“There is a difference between batting positively and aggressively and being an enforcer. I think what Virat meant was the No 3 batsman needs to play positively,” Pujara told Th Times of India in an interview.
“At the end of the day, you are playing a Test match and by what he had said, it doesn’t mean that you need to take a run off every ball but you need to have a positive mindset where you can dominate the bowlers and not the other way round.”
“I am completely aware of what Virat wants and there is no communication gap between us,” Pujara told The Times of India.
“If you see, my strike rate in Tests is not bad. My overall career strike rate is quite good. I just want to bat the way I do. I want to play my natural game where once I get set I will continue to play my strokes,” was Pujara’s response after that memorable innings in Colombo – an innings that Pujara said is one of his best ever, coming on a difficult grassy wicket.
His career strike rate of a shade under 50 in Tests, does compare favourably with the likes of Virat Kohli (53.52), Murali Vijay (47.32) and Ajinkya Rahane (56.55). But Pujara is much more old-fashioned in his batting style and has long had to endure the perception of being a Test-only player.
“I know about this perception, but then it is only a perception,” Pujara said. “If it is not in the range of what Virender Sehwag or Chris Gayle have, it is on par with the other batsmen.”
With a riveting series against South Africa ahead, Pujara will now look to cement his place in the side.
“I would be very happy if I get back to batting at No 3 in the next series. But then, I am really flexible when it comes to the batting order. Having scored runs in all positions and getting back to form, I am ready to fill in any spot that the team management wants,” Pujara said in the interview.