Former Indian Cricketer Aakash Chopra has come out and said that amidst the debates going around the world regarding India's team combination for the Test series in England, he'll be heartbroken if India drops their longtime no.3, Cheteshwar Pujara.
Pujara has a stellar record - 4,496 runs across 57 Tests - playing for India but his numbers outside Asia has been questionable for a while. His last score of substance overseas came in December 2013, when he played a magnificent knock of 150 in Johannesburg, and he averages a very modest 27 away from the home realms.
Pujara had a poor series in South Africa earlier this year, where he scored just 100 runs across 6 innings and averaged just 16.66.
There have been suggestions to drop him from the side but he has found support from Aakash Chopra, who insisted the need for team management to back him in England.
"There's no way you can drop Pujara. Rahul is doing well, but Pujara has to be in the playing XI. I will be heartbroken if Pujara gets dropped," Chopra told SportStar and added, "Yes, he didn't score (too many) runs in the county circuit and also in the warm-up game, but he has been the batsman of pedigree in the last 4-5 years and he wasn't that bad to be fair. Everybody fails and Pujara did too, but he did spend a lot of time blunting the new ball and India can take a call later but not now. To accommodate Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan has to go, but not Pujara. I will be sad if Pujara gets dropped,"
Speaking about the injuries to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, Chopra said, "Currently, with Bhuvi and Bumrah getting injured, and Shami losing his rhythm, bowling is a concern. We are in a precarious position, but with the conditions being dry in England, spin will play a bigger role. That allows us to compete on equal terms. But it won't be easy,"
Regarding spin, Chopra said Kuldeep Yadav should ideally be replacing Ravindra Jadeja, given that the wrist-spinner troubled the English batsmen during the T20I and ODI series. "It's a tough one, but I will go with Kuldeep ahead of Jadeja. But you should not forget that Jadeja took seven wickets in an innings against England last time (in Chennai), and he took six wickets in the last Test match he played (against Afghanistan). He has done no wrong. It's a harsh decision, but I will go with Kuldeep."
He further added, "Batting looks thin in Bhuvi's absence and, as we are speaking, it is raining in Birmingham. If you give a green top, India doesn't really have the bowling attack to take 20 wickets. England would have realised that after seeing India's warm-up game. India played four fast bowlers in South Africa last year and Umesh Yadav didn't even fit in. But now he is the obvious choice along with Ishant Sharma."
"Mohammed Shami is not in form and if picked, Shardul Thakur will be playing his first Test match. Ishant, Umesh, R. Ashwin and Kuldeep should ideally be playing, but again we need to look at the pitch and see how the conditions are,"
Ahead of the series, many have said that the battle between James Anderson and Virat Kohli will be the one to watch out for. Aakash gave his insight into it and said, "Both have travelled in opposite directions. From 2014, Kohli's performance has been brilliant, but Anderson's fitness has taken a hit. Anderson had the edge then, but now Kohli is in a space where he can tackle him. It won't be a nightmare for him to face Anderson. You will nick a few, but Kohli knows where his off-stump is. Kohli is ahead of Anderson."
Signing off, Chopra said, "There are three things that are going to define this tour for India. First, they need to sort out the opening combination. Second would be catching because if you can take catches that will put the team in a good position, and finally, dismissing England's lower-order. Suppose Kuldeep is not able to pick wickets or if he is not playing, India might struggle to dismiss the England tail and the bottom five of England are going to hurt India,"