Cheteshwar Pujara will warm up for India’s Test series in England by playing county cricket for Yorkshire.
Pujara will share overseas duties with New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, and he is so intent upon making a good impression that he is due to arrive in the UK in time for a pre-season friendly against Leeds Bradford MCCU fixture on April 7.
There was little to delight Pujara in the IPL auction. He went unsold and he was one of the players whose name was not even read out.
In contrast, his stock in Test cricket remains as high as ever: he stands sixth in the ICC Test rankings, his average top side of 50. In Johannesburg last week, he went 53 balls before scoring his first run, the most by any top-order international batsman since 2001, but his half-century provided some of the ballast required for an India victory on a dubious pitch.
Despite a deal for Pujara being struck several weeks ago, Yorkshire delayed their announcement until the results of the IPL auction were confirmed.
The BCCI has also scheduled a one-off Test against Afghanistan in Bengaluru, from June 14-18, with Pujara set to depart for India after a Royal London 50-Over clash at Lancashire, but with Yorkshire hoping he will return in time for an away trip to Hampshire, in the Specsavers County Championship, on June 20.
India play five Tests in England between August 1 and September 11.
The addition of a second overseas batsman means Yorkshire will have three of the top six Test batsmen on their staff in 2018, with Joe Root ranked at three, despite his frustration at his low conversion rate of fifties to hundreds, and Williamson at four.
Yorkshire came out well from the IPL auction as Root, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Plunkett, David Willey and Adil Rashid all went unsold, but just because the ECB was fully supportive of the presence of England players in the IPL auction, recent history suggests it will not automatically follow that they release their centrally-contracted players for Championship duty.
There is also potential for Pujara to stay on after the India’s summer Test tour for Yorkshire’s final two Championship fixtures of the season.
“I’m really excited to be able to have the opportunity to represent Yorkshire once again,” Pujara said. “It’s always nice to be able to come over here and play some County Cricket and I love the passion the people of Yorkshire have for the game. Each time I’ve played county cricket it has improved me as a player. That’s the plan again in 2018. I just want to score as many runs as possible for Yorkshire and soak up as much as I can from the whole experience.”
Pujara, who delivered a record-breaking 12th double century of his 12-year career towards the end of 2017, averages 56.68 in first-class cricket. His County Championship record stands at 816 runs with three fifties and as many hundreds. One of each came in Yorkshire colours in the early stages of the club’s second successive Championship winning year.
“It goes without saying that Cheteshwar is a highly-driven individual and very skilled batsman,” said Yorkshire’s director of cricket Martyn Moxon. “We’re delighted to have him on board. The plan is for him to relieve some of the pressure on the top order that we struggled with at times in 2017. Just as he did in 2015, Pujara will relish the challenge of performing in English conditions.”
Pujara had two spells at Nottinghamshire last season and has also played county cricket for Derbyshire as he has become the most common India player on the county circuit.