The legendary Sunil Gavaskar has backed the under-pressure Cheteshwar Pujara for his ability to hold the fort but said the Indian team management can explore "someone else" if it feels his method is not working anymore. (More Cricket News)
Known for his rock-solid defence and textbook batting technique, Pujara received a lot of flak for not being able to put away the bad deliveries in recent years, the latest being the World Test Championship final against New Zealand.
"Pujara has got to the international level playing in a certain way, he has got to trust that method. In case, the team doesn't trust that method, then they have to maybe look at bringing somebody else in," Gavaskar said during a virtual con-call on Monday.
The former captain added, "But this is a method that's worked for him, worked for India. He has held the fort at one end while the stroke-players at the other end have been at liberty to play their shots knowing that there is a solid player at one end.
"I think he's got to believe in himself and carry on playing as he knows best because he has done a fantastic job for India over the years," he added.
During the course of the two-year World Test Championship (WTC) cycle, Pujara failed to register a century and scored at an average of less than 30.
He'll be next seen in action during India's five-match Test series against England, which begins in Nottingham from Wednesday.
With Shubman Gill ruled out due to an injury, Gavaskar backed K L Rahul to open the batting.
"I think with KL Rahul scoring a hundred in the three-day game, he should be the person that they should consider to open the batting. Mayank Agarwal has had an outstanding season in 2019 but the last tour to Australia, he struggled a bit," Gavaskar said.
"Whereas with a hundred under his belt, I think Rahul will have lots of confidence. He is the person I would look at opening the batting, not having Pujara going up the order.
"Also, don't forget, the last Test match that Rahul played in England (in 2018), he got a hundred at The Oval. With that in mind, it might be a good idea to look at Rahul as an opener ahead of Mayank," elaborated the former opener.
Gavaskar's remarks came before the BCCI announced that opener Agarwal, who was hit on the helmet by a Mohammed Siraj short ball, was ruled out of the first Test.
The batting great also favoured playing the aggressive Rishabh Pant ahead of Wriddhiman Saha in England.
"It depends on your combination. If you are going to go in with five batsmen and a wicket-keeper, then I think you would look at somebody like a Rishabh Pant.
"Also, it depends on where you play, if you are playing for example, in India where the ball turns a lot more, so more of the wicket-keeping skills are required, then you would look to go in for somebody as outstanding as Wriddhiman Saha," said Gavaskar.
"But otherwise, if you are looking at playing in England, where the wicketkeeper has to stand back and collect the deliveries against most of the pacers, then I would still go in for somebody like Rishabh Pant," he added.
The 'little master' also predicted an India win by a 4-0 or 3-1 margin, depending on the weather, adding that the visitors would emerge victorious anyway as England is depleted and their batting brittle.
"My prediction is, if again this time I am making it contingent (on) to the weather... if the hot conditions are there, hot conditions are there for 22 out of possible 25 days, then I think India will win 4-0.
"In case you have a situation where the weather is going to be a factor, then I think India will win 3-1, but I think India will still go on to win, because England is now a very depleted side, and their batting, as we saw in the series against New Zealand, is being brittle," he noted.
One of the big battles would be between seasoned pacer James Anderson and Virat Kohli, and Gavaskar has backed the India captain to come out triumphant.
"Looking at the way Kohli adapted in 2018, looking at the way he was so certain around off-stump, his shot selection was so immaculate...
"... I just think Anderson as a fast bowler getting three-year older and Virat Kohli getting three years more experienced, and I think batsmen are at their peak around this 28-33-34, I do believe that Virat Kohli will come out triumphs like he did in 2018," said Gavaskar.
The likes of Kohli and Pujara haven't scored a Test hundred for a while but Gavaskar felt that would not play on their minds.
"I think it is a great incentive for both of them, both of them are run hungry batsmen, both of them want to get big hundreds. But I don't think it is going to play on their minds," he said.
"It doesn't play on your mind, no batsman thinks that far ahead, a good/great batsman only thinks about the next ball, they don't even think of the previous ball, and both these batsmen without doubt are very great players," he signed off.
The first Test match will be aired on Sony Six, Sony Ten 3 and Sony Ten 4 from August 4, from 3.30 PM IST.