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ENG Vs IND, 5th Test: Cheteshwar Pujara In Line For Opener’s Slot If Rohit Sharma Fails To Recover

India captain Rohit Sharma is racing against time to be fit for the rescheduled fifth Test match against England after being down with COVID-19.

Cheteshwar Pujara waits to bat during a training session ahead of the fifth Test against England.
Cheteshwar Pujara waits to bat during a training session ahead of the fifth Test against England. AP

India head coach Rahul Dravid hinted at Cheteshwar Pujara being promoted to the opener’s slot if at all captain Rohit Sharma fails to recover in time from COVID-19 for the fifth Test match against England that starts on Friday in Birmingham. (More Cricket News)

Rohit Sharma, who contracted COVID-19 earlier this week, is racing against time to be fit for the Test match. According to reports, he had undergone a test on Wednesday evening and will have another one done on Thursday morning before the management takes a final decision on his selection.

If Rohit is ruled out of the Test match, Jasprit Bumrah will lead the side. Dravid didn't want to give it away but said that if situation arises, number three can be asked to open which means that Cheteshwar Pujara might be seen opening the batting with Shubman Gill.

“Any such decision is taken in consultation with the player. As a player not every situation is as expected and it can happen at times that number three will have to open,” Dravid said on the eve of the Test match.

“It’s probably better the communication comes officially from official sources... Once we have exact clarity on Rohit, you’ll hear something from the official sources. It’s not for me to give out official communication,” added the former captain when asked about Rohit’s health status.

Meanwhile, the head coach wants a match-winning contribution from his best batter Virat Kohli, if not a three-figure knock like it has happened over the years. Kohli has set a benchmark when it comes to batting and has already raked up 70 centuries in international cricket.   

Kohli has not scored an international hundred since November 2019 but Dravid dismissed notions that the owner of 27 Test hundreds is ‘lacking in motivation’. “As players, you go through these phases and I don't think you need motivation to be very honest with you and I think in Virat's case it is nothing to do with lack of motivation or desire,” Dravid said.

“It's not always focussing on those three figures like even a 70-odd (79) in a difficult situation in Cape Town (vs SA) was a good innings. Didn't convert into a three-figure, but it was a good score.

“Obviously, the standards that he has set, people only see hundreds as a success but for me, from a coaches' perspective, we want contributions from him -- match-winning contributions, whether it is a 50 or a 60,” the coach explained.

For Dravid, Kohli, who is nearing 34, isn't on the wrong side of 30 as many would like to believe. “In my opinion, he is on right side of 30 and he is an incredibly fit guy. He is one of the most hardworking guys that I have come across and his desire and hunger and whole attitude of looking after himself,” he said.

“And his preparation, even the way he batted at Leicester, batting in those conditions and scoring the 50s and 60s, keen on playing against our bowlers, batting against Bumrah and all these guys. He is ticking all right boxes and doing everything he needs to do to come out of it,” Dravid said in a reassuring tone.

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