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Cheteshwar Pujara’s struggles with left-arm spin after Australia heroics continue

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Back in 2019 when Cheteshwar Pujara arrived in India after frustrating Aussie bowlers and playing the lead, man-of-the-series role in India’s first-ever Test series win in Australia, he got stuck against a little-known left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate of Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy final.

Pujara, representing Saurashtra, was dismissed for 1 and 0 after playing a total of 16 balls across two innings in that final in Nagpur.

Cut to 2021, and the story remains the same. Pujara played some gritty knocks in the last two Tests in Australia in Sydney and Brisbane, helping India draw and win the Tests respectively less than two months ago.

But on arrival from Australia, he has got stuck again against left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who has dismissed him three out of five times in the ongoing India-England series.

“With Cheteshwar, he is using his feet, stretching, everything is okay. But many times, he has been playing half-cock. When he is in doubt, he doesn’t stretch (full) against left-arm spinner. That is where he is stuck with lbw or is caught in slips,” said former India batsman Anshuman Gaekwad, who also served as India chief selector and coach, while speaking to IANS.

Leach has had him caught in slips by Ben Stokes twice and leg-before the wicket once. After his 73 in the first innings of the first Test, he has aggregated 43 across the last four innings with Leach getting him thrice and once he has fallen run out. England have ensured that they throttled his run-scoring with his strike rate in the last four innings just 34.95.

This is exactly what Vidarbha thought two years ago when they got him out twice cheaply.

Although Vidarbha skipper Faiz Fazal as well as spinner Aditya Sarwate don’t want to discuss the team strategy in detail they do say that the idea was to restrict him inside the crease.

“We all know he has got great footwork and likes to cut out the spin (by stepping out). He doesn’t like to play from the crease. So we thought of restricting his singles, not allowing him to go off-strike. We played with the field setting. Bowled straighter lines so that he doesn’t get singles and plays from crease. Aditya varied his speed well like we had planned. He bowled extremely well making sure it was not easy for Pujara to step out,” Fazal told IANS.

The Nagpur track was dry just as the ones in the last two Tests were which helped Sarwate and Leach to restrict his scoring.

“The wicket was dry. That also played a role. If he is (stuck in) crease then you get opportunity to turn the ball. Straighter one is also beneficial,” added Fazal.

Sarwate said that the idea was not to let Pujara settle and disallow him from rotating strike and have him stuck inside the crease.

“I had seen him and he likes to step out and rotate strike. My plan was to not let him step out. The idea was to bowl and hit the right areas, so that he gets stuck in his crease and isn’t able to rotate strike. When he is able to rotate strike, he settles down. So we thought we should bowl in the right areas so that he doesn’t settle,” recalled the Vidarbha left-arm spinner.

Leach himself said very little on Pujara’s dismissal except that he wants to continue doing it.

If the pitch for the fourth and final Test remains dry and powdery, Pujara could be in for a tough time again.

National

PKL 8: Patna Pirates beat Puneri Paltan 38-26

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Raider Sachin scored 10 points as three-time champions Patna Pirates defeated Puneri Paltan 38-26 in Match 17 of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) Season 8 at The Sheraton Grand, Whitefield, on Tuesday. Sachin scored a Super 10 (10 points) and was ably supported by Patna’s defensive trio of Sunil (4 points), Mohammadreza Chiyaneh (3 points), and Sajin C (3 points). The lack of a quality raider despite promising performances from youngsters will be a cause of concern for the Puneri Paltan who succumbed to their second loss in three matches.

All eyes were once again on Pune’s Rahul Chaudhari but the showman, despite starting the match, was substituted for young Mohit Goyat by coach Anup Kumar in the first half. The trio of raiders including Aslam Inamdar and Pankaj Mohite caused problems for the Patna defence while at the other end Prashant Kumar Rai and Sachin were equally effective.

Patna were facing the risk of an all-out with six minutes left to half-time, but their defender Sajin C completed a Super Tackle to turn the momentum. The three-time champions got lucky later when Monu Goyat entered the lobby without contact, in a do-or-die raid only to be followed by three Pune defenders who had been deceived by his actions. The first half ended 14-14 with Pune having just two men on the mat.

Pune coach Anup Kumar clearly expected from his set of raiders and brought in Shubham Shelke for Pankaj Mohite in the second half. But Patna kept fighting back, thanks to the largely confident tackles from the likes of Mohammadreza Chiyaneh and Sajin. With 10 minutes remaining, Patna had a four-point lead and that was extended a’ Pune’s plan to play on the Do-or-Die raid backfired. Sachin scored two points in the crucial raid for Patna to inspire another ALL OUT in the 13th minute and open a 10-point lead.

Patna maintained the momentum and though Sunil and Vishal Bharadwaj picked up yellow cards in the final minutes as the match became intense the three-time champions ensured there was no late comeback by Pune and clinched an important win.

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PKL 8: Bengal Warriors beat Gujarat Giants

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Bengal Warriors defeated Gujarat Giants 31-28 on Day 3 of the Pro Kabaddi League Season 8 held at The Sheraton Grand, Whitefield, here on Friday. This was Bengal Warriors’ second win in as many matches while Gujarat Gaints have one win and one loss. The Warriors have 10 points the same as Dabang Delhi but are placed second on a lower points-difference while Gujarat have six points.

Bengal Warriors started well and established a slender lead (16-11) against Gujarat Giants at half-time. They maintained their advantage despite the valiant efforts of the Gujarat Giants, managed to register a narrow victory.

Maninder Singh was the top scorer for Bengal Warriors with eight points while Esmaeil Nabibakhsh contributed four points.

Bengal Warriors won 18 raid points as against 19 by Gujarat Giants. But it was in defence that they scored, claiming 10 points as against eight by their rivals. They bagged two all-outs as against none by the Giants.

Rakesh Narwal was the top scorer for Gujarat Giants with 12 points while Rakesh Sungroya contributed four points.

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Rishabh Pant appointed as Uttarakhand’s brand ambassador

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 Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Sunday announced that Indian wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant has been appointed as the brand ambassador of the state.

Taking to Twitter, the Chief Minister said that Pant will encourage the youngsters to take up sports.

“One of the best cricket players of India, the idol of youth and son of Uttarakhand, Rishabh Pant has been appointed as “State Brand Ambassador” by our government with the aim of encouraging the youth of the state towards sports and public health,” tweeted Dhami in Hindi, along with the video.

In the video, CM Dhami can be seen interacting with Rishabh and asking about his well-being.

The attacking batter also thanked the Chief Minister for the opportunity, saying that he will try his best to motivate people towards fitness.

“Thank you @pushkardhami sir for giving me the opportunity to be the Brand Ambassador of promoting Sports and General Health among the people of Uttarakhand. I’ll do my best to spread this message and feeling happy that you are taking these steps towards a fitter India,” tweeted Pant.

“Coming from a small town of Roorkee, I am confident that the people here have the ability to make the country proud in various fields of life,” he added.

The 24-year Pant, who was rested for the New Zealand Tests, is currently in Johannesburg, South Africa as the Indian Team is all set to face Proteas in the three-match Test series, starting December 26.

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