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Cheteshwar Pujara responded angrily to both on Sunday after India won by three wickets to claim the series as well. He was defending the decision to bat Axar before Kohli.
In the opening moments of their last innings against Bangladesh in Dhaka on Saturday night, the Indian team management made an odd choice. Following Cheteshwar Pujaras departure, head coach Rahul Dravid and captain KL Rahul made the decision to bat Axar Patel rather than Indias traditional No. 4 Virat Kohli. Axar was crucial in the chase as India finally prevailed, although veteran cricketers Sunil Gavaskar and Ajay Jadeja strongly disagreed with the judgement. On Sunday, when India defeated Pakistan by three wickets to claim the series as well, Pujara responded angrily to both while defending the decision to bat Axar ahead of Kohli.
Speaking to Sony Sports at the end of Day 3, Gavaskar felt that the decision had sent a bad message to Kohli, whom he hailed as "one of the best batters in the world".
"It didnt send a good message to Kohli. He is the best batsman in the world. Unless Kohli himself asked for it, then its a different matter. We dont know what happened in the changing room. But its hard to understand. Axar has played well, of course," he said.
Jadeja, who was part of the Hindi panel, added, "He is the worlds best player. 15 overs were left. Saba Karim said it could have been because of the left-right combination, which is an obvious thought, but then I feel - did Rishabh Pant take a sleeping pill? I will also say that it is easy for us to say this from here; we dont know if someone was not feeling well."
"It was a very good move because among their three strike bowlers, two were left-arm spinners. Axar is a left-hander, so he was sent to tackle them and to have a batter who can bat sensibly in the initial period against the Kookaburra ball. It was a crucial move for us," he explained. "That was an important phase of the game where we didnt want to lose too many wickets in the evening, and he could have batted cautiously. So I was not surprised. When you are chasing a 145-run total, every run is important, and the way he batted, his innings was very valuable for us."
Pujara on India sending Axar ahead of Kohli pic.twitter.com/xAFrbNirf3— The Game Changer (@TheGame_26) December 25, 2022
At the end of Day 3, Axar had 26 unbroken runs while Kohli had only one. After a brave effort by Shreyas Iyer and Ashwin to lead India to victory, he was subsequently removed for 34.