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NEW DELHI: Cheteshwar Pujara finds the constant fuss over his strike-rate a tad unfair and wants to clarify once and for all that he has the full backing of the team management.In the age of slam-bang cricket, Pujara brings delight to the purists of the game by batting on and on without worrying too much about the strike-rate. But to appreciate someone who epitomizes patience in Test cricket is maybe asking for too much from the “millennials”.Last week, the soft-spoken 32-year-old from Rajkot found himself at the receiving end again on social media as he labored his way to 66 off 237 balls in thefinal against Bengal.To his credit, he overcame fever and throat infection to share a game-changing stand with Arpit Vasavada, helping Saurashtra to their maiden title on the basis of a first-innings lead.Whether it is playing for Saurashtra or India, Pujara is used to the constant chatter around his strike-rate.“I don’t think there is too much talk (on the inside). In media, it is described differently, but the team management has been backing me on this completely. There is no pressure from the captain, coach or anyone else,” Pujara, who is currently getting much-needed family time due to the COVID-19 outbreak, said.“I just want to clarify that when it comes to striking rate people start pointing towards the team management’s take on it, but there is no pressure on me at all. The team management understands my style of play and its importance.”For someone who averages 48.66 in 77 Tests, perception counts for little.“The question that was asked on social media (during the Ranji Trophy final) was ‘why am I taking so long to score X number of runs’? Whether I pay attention to that? No, I don’t. My job is to make sure that the team wins at all times.“People have this tendency to pinpoint one person, but it is just not about me. If you look at any Test series where I have scored runs and taken a little bit of time, the opposition batsmen, most of them, have consumed the same number of balls.“I know I can’t be a David Warner or Virender Sehwag, but if a normal batsman takes time there is nothing wrong in that.”The entire batting unit had a tough time in New Zealand with the 0-2 loss in Tests marking the end of the international season. Pujara collected five half-centuries this season, including one in New Zealand, but could not add to his 18 hundred.“People expect big knocks from me. I always challenge myself to score a 100, but to average close to 50 in Tests means you are scoring a half-century almost every second innings.“My standards are always high and I am not satisfied with the season that I had but I would not call it a bad one at all.”It may be boring and exhausting for a majority of the fans, but batting time and wearing out the opposition excites Pujara the most.Asked why they don’t make it like him anymore, Pujara gave a practical response.“I don’t think it is on the decline (the art of batting time). There is value for it. Maybe the youngsters are not inclined towards this format. It is a fact that there are more games in white-ball cricket. A youngster would want to play shorter formats because it is financially better.“There is nothing wrong with that but they should understand that real cricket is Test cricket and you will be judged only on the performances in the five-day game.”With uncertainty over the upcoming county season in the UK due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Pujara has no game time lined up in the near future. The biggest international assignment for him this season is the tour of Australia and he can’t be more fired up for that.Rather than focusing on the loss in New Zealand, Pujara looked at the Australian challenge, especially after India’s historic triumph Down Under last year.“It is one of the most important series for us.”On playing a full-strength Australia this time, he said: “They (Steve Smith and David Warner) are important players, but if we played the way we played in the last series, we should be able to beat them. AgenciesAlso Read: Arpit Vasavada, Cheteshwar Pujara help Saurashtra hold egde over BengalAlso Watch: Prices of Protective Masks and Hand Sanitizers are Increasing rapidly due to fear of Coronavirus.
With time winding down in the USC men’s basketball team’s last home game last month, junior forward Nikola Vucevic stepped to the line to take two free throws.As he prepared to shoot, a faint “one more year” chant could be heard coming from the student section.This continued as the game reached its final seconds, and while the chant was intended for Vucevic, it could have easily applied to another man on the USC bench: coach Kevin O’Neill.After USC exited the NCAA tournament as quickly as it entered, questions about O’Neill’s job status hit the Internet. USC has been mediocre during O’Neill’s two years at the helm and there are few signs the program is rapidly improving.O’Neill did exceed expectations by getting into the tournament this year, but his team’s inconsistent play remains a concern.Yet, with that in mind, O’Neill deserves one more year to show significant improvement in the basketball program.O’Neill is the coaching equivalent of a journeyman. He has been to a lot of places, never failing, but never enjoying great success either. He has been to the tournament a couple of times, but never made a huge dent.Based on past experiences, it’s reasonable to assume O’Neill is not going to turn USC basketball into an annual Pac-10 contender.Since he’s only been here two years, however, it would be unfair of USC to fire him this summer. He hasn’t fully had a chance to make his mark on the sanction-plagued program, thanks to former coach Tim Floyd.He also hasn’t had a chance to bring in a lot of recruits, which is important when establishing if a coach is succeeding in a particular environment.O’Neill has two recruits above an 89 rating, according to ESPN.com, coming in next year, as well as 2009-10 Big Ten Honorable Mention forward Aaron Fuller and center James Blasczyk, a former Texas A&M player and one-time top-50 high school recruit in TexasIt’s not the class John Calipari gets every year at Kentucky, but it’s a solid ragtag group of players, who could come together to help USC to the next level.But we won’t know until next year, when O’Neill gets the chance to implement his system with the guys he recruited.If significant improvement — and by that I mean more consistent play, not losing to teams nobody has ever heard of, and becoming a lock for the NCAA tournament — isn’t made, it would be right for Haden to look elsewhere for someone who can lead USC basketball into the elite of the Pac-12.Now before you snap and say USC basketball will never be Pac-12 elite material or USC basketball isn’t important, consider this: Not only is the Galen Center, built just five years ago, begging for a headlining act, but the entire Pac-12 is begging for someone to step up and be the face of the conference.Five different teams have won the conference title in the last five years.If O’Neill can’t get the program on the rise next year, the only way for Pat Haden to fix that is to hire a big name coach and it just so happens there will likely be one on the market next year.Yup, I’m talking about former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl.Despite all the sanctions, I think most would agree Pearl would be a great fit for the Trojan program. He’s young, colorful and a great marketer. He’s also a big name recruits can gravitate to.He does have a lot of baggage, however, which is why it would be unwise for USC to even think about him now.If Haden even hinted he were thinking about Pearl, that would not only send the wrong message to the NCAA Committee of Infractions but would also contradict the delicate reputation Haden has built for the USC athletics program in the past nine months.Yes, Pearl lied to the NCAA, which is obviously a big no-no. And no, that wasn’t his only offense. Yet, I believe he is truly remorseful and deserves a second chance. And there is no place he would be under a sharper watch than at USC.I’m aware the Committee on Infractions can give him a two-year show-cause penalty, meaning any place that hires him needs to get approval from the committee first, but Tennessee dismissed Pearl more for its overall athletic reputation than the health of its basketball program.Barring any extensive penalties handed down to Pearl by the NCAA this summer, if O’Neill can’t show he’s bringing the program to another level after this season, Haden would be wrong to discount Pearl as a replacement once the talk and feelings about his illicit activity die down. But O’Neill definitely deserves this next year to prove his worth. “Spittin’ Sports” runs Fridays. To comment on this article email Kenny at email@example.com or visit dailytrojan.com.