Ahead of the upcoming Test series against England at home, India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has given Cheteshwar Pujara a challenge. The spin spearhead has asked his teammate to bat in a certain way in the forthcoming series. India will welcome England next month for a full-fledged series. The series will be the first one in India since the pandemic halted action around the world in March last year.
India and England will play four Tests, five T20Is and three ODIs in the next couple of months. The Test series will kickstart the series on February 5 in Chennai. And as India gear up for their last series in the ongoing ICC Test Championship, Ravichandran Ashwin has made it clear that he wants Pujara to bat in a different way against the spinners.
In an interaction with batting coach Vikram Rathour in his YouTube channel, Ravichandran Ashwin stated that he does not like Pujara’s batting against the spinners when he make them look nearly unplayable. The interaction started on a humorous note with Rathour calling out Ravichandran Ashwin for sledging Pujara.
“For some reason, you really sledge him. I don’t know why, what’s the deal there. You really are after him all the time, and him being one of my favourite players in the team. I love the way he bats, prepares… he’s a coach’s dream. I have to defend him against you. No praise is enough for the way he batted in the last Test match, the way he responded to all those short balls, the injuries he had and the way he kept on batting. Hats off to him. Played a massive, massive role,” said Rathour.
In reply, Ravichandran Ashwin said that he has a personal agenda against the batsman. The Tamil Nadu ace opined that because of Pujara’s batting style against the spinners, the critics believe that he fails to make a similar impression against the batsmen.
“My problem with Puji is different, it’s a personal agenda. Because every time an opponent, a counterpart like a Nathan Lyon is bowling, Puji makes it so heart throbbing for me. Every time the ball goes in the air (off the pad)… I’m like nobody plays like this man, you’re making him look unplayable. Eventually everybody will think I’m not able to make the other batsmen bat like this. Any thoughts on this? Does he make Lyon look unplayable? said the off-spinner.
Rathour, however, disagreed with the India spin star and highlighted Pujara’s fine record against Lyon. The batting coach also said that he loves Pujara’s ‘set method of batting’.
He doesn’t, I think he handles Lyon really well. The numbers show that, he’s one guy who has batted really well against him and scored runs. He’s averaging some 50+ against him, so he has done well against him. That’s his way of playing and we’ve had these discussions with him, where he keeps giving reasons why he’s doing certain things, which are extremely funny at times. That’s what I love about him, he has a very set method. He’s a very stubborn character. That’s his strength as well. He doesn’t give it easy. The only time I’ve seen him under pressure is when he’s having discussions with you or when he’s playing TT with Pant,” he said.
In response, Ravichandran Ashwin revealed that he has dismissed Pujara every time he has bowled against him. The spin ace also asked Rathour whether Pujara would ever hit an off-spinner over the top.
“Fact of the matter remains, every time I’ve bowled against Pujara, he has got out to me. You can cross verify it anywhere. How much ever you back him, that’s the fact. Will we ever see Pujara hit an off-spinner over the top?” said Ashwin.
Rathour, on his part, said: “Work in progress. I’m trying to convince him that at least once go over the top, he’s still not convinced. He’s giving me great reasons.”
Ashwin then boldly claimed that he would shave off half his moustache if Pujara indeed goes over the top against an off-spinner in the upcoming series. Ashwin also said that he would come out and play with half moustache if Pujara accepts his challenge.
“If he goes over the top against Moeen Ali or any other spinner in this England series, I will take half my moustache out and come and play the game. This is an open challenge!” said Ashwin.
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