“I will always pick him in my all-time XI” – Harbhajan Singh on Cheteshwar Pujara

Cheteshwar Pujara was the second-highest run-scorer for India in the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Veteran Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has said that he will always pick India’s Test mainstay Cheteshwar Pujara in his all-time XI due to the 33-year-old’s dependability at number three.

Cheteshwar Pujara was the unsung hero of Team India’s emphatic series win in the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy. He played his role of wearing down the opposition bowling attack to perfection. His long vigil at the crease allowed the likes of Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant to express themselves.

Speaking to India Today, Harbhajan Singh explained why Pujara’s role was so crucial in the historic series win.

“He (Cheteshwar Pujara) was fantastic even in the last series. His fifty was so crucial. He held one end up, and other people went there to score runs. He’s someone very very important, I will always pick him in my all-time XI because he is the one who lets the others play the way they want to and achieve whatever the target is in front of us,” Harbhajan Singh said.

Team India were bundled out inside three days at the Adelaide Oval, plummeting to their lowest ever Test score of 36.

Compounding their miseries, the team’s captain and best batsman Virat Kohli headed back home for the birth of his first child. And as the series progressed, the visitors were beset with a plethora of injuries; half a dozen first-team regulars were missing for the fourth Test at the Gabba.

Despite the setbacks, Team India pulled off one of their best ever Test series wins, as the visitors became the first team to breach Australia’s ‘Fortress Gabba’ in over three decades.

While speaking with Hindustan Times, Cheteshwar Pujara opined that the triumph was the greatest comeback he had witnessed in his cricketing career.

“It was one of the best comebacks in my cricketing career. If I have to rate the best Test series against Australia, I will be confused between the 2017 series at home, the series in 2018-19, and this one. With the side we had, this one will be one of the best,” Cheteshwar Pujara said.

While the likes of Pant and Gill deserved all the plaudits for their sensational performances, it was Cheteshwar Pujara’s rearguard action that thwarted the Australian bowlers all series.

He faced 928 balls in the series, the most by any batsman, and scored 271 runs, the highest for the visitors after Rishabh Pant.

Unfazed by the criticism he copes up at times for his ‘slow’ batting, Cheteshwar Pujara has no qualms performing his designated role in the team – hold one end up and allow the others around him to flourish.

The 33-year-old will next be in action in the upcoming four-match Test series against England which starts next month.

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