In the pantheon of Indian batting greats, Cheteshwar Pujara is a name that, at the moment, stands miles away. This however does not mean that the Rajkot born batsman may not ever do so. One cannot be sure what Sir Sunil Gavaskar would suggest but cricket pundits like Harsha Bhogale and iconic batsman Rahul Dravid have held on to their views on the young lad. Both insist that Cheteshwar Pujara will most certainly stoke up big numbers in test cricket and Dravid has gone to the extent of saying that if utilized well, he will shine in the limited over format by the time he hangs up his boots. Is the BCCI listening?
Walking with greats
But, for a batsman who grew up being scoffed at for scoring runs on flat tracks of Rajkot despite dolling out big numbers with that whirring blade, the journey to Indian test side hasn’t been that easy. Even though he has done remarkably well thus far in a journey that has only just begun, having debuted in 2010, in a side that boasted of big names like Laxman, Sachin and Pujara’s own hero, Rahul Dravid. But, Cheteshwar isn’t a layman who aspires to do big and believes in loose talk.
Having already warmed the bench once following a forgettable tour to England (2014) where struggles against Broad and Anderson became, all too sudden, prominent, Pujara has worked hard and immensely so to cement his place in a side which would rather have him in than do without.
Technicality is the name of the game
Technically adept at handling both pace and spin with élan, Pujara’s mastery at holding off difficult attacks has never been at question.
Before his test call, precisely during the sixth year of playing first class cricket, Cheteshwar had already scored a daunting triple ton and two magnificent double hundreds.
But, no matter what view you hold on Indian test cricket and regardless of the fact that you are a T 20 or Test Cricket fan, the able youngster is well on his way to becoming a formidable no. 3 bat. In so doing, he has played some tremendous knocks that have often helped India clinch victories and hold on to unlikely draws in a fashion that quite resembles a man we fondly call “The Wall”.
We leave you with some pearls from the right handed batsman’s blade, which have given some reason to cheer about the man who recently turned 28 on January 25.
Australia tour of India, 2010
Pujara made his debut at Bangalore. Together with a struggling Rahul Dravid, he held on to an end and left an important imprint of his game by constructing 72 meticulous runs against an attack that had the fiery Mitchell Johnson and the offie Nathan Hauritz.
England tour of India, 2012
Having already held the top order from no.3, a position that is as critical toward constructing an inning as in often giving the side a spearhead, Pujara struck a masterly maiden double hundred at Ahmedabad.His unbeaten 206 along with Sehwag’s 117 powered India to a commanding 521 for 8 in the first inning, a total that proved too heavy for England to conquer. This resulted in India winning the 1st test by a margin of nine wickets. Pujara’s knock was significant since it unfurled a watertight technique and was buoyed by flair and class.
India’s tour to South Africa
No batsmen ever fancies facing the likes of Steyn, Morkel, and the all time legend, Kallis at their own backyard. But, two young men, at early stages of their careers made heavy inroads on the tour. Virat, who stood tall to his name crafted a meaty 96 in the First test at Johannesburg December. His able soldier at the other end, Cheteshwar Pujara went 57 run better than the Delhi belter, scoring a crafty 153. His knocking came of 353 balls. In so doing, he held both Steyn and Morkel and attacked when it mattered, combining patience judiciously to effective stroke-play on both sides of the wicket. Making most of a challenging batting track, the two young guns took India to a safe draw.
In the second test, played at Kingsmead, Durban, Pujara’s figures read 70 off 233 balls and 32 of 137 balls respectively. While, this wasn’t enough to stop South Africa from claiming a comprehensive victory, Pujara’s solid technique and penchant for playing grounded shots didn’t escape the eye of experts.
Australia tour of India, 2013
A test series known most for India’s dominance and for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s powerful double century, the former Indian test captain wasn’t the only star at Chepauk stadium in Chennai. In the 1st test against the Aussies, Pujara scored a defiant 44 in the first knock and stayed on in the second inning during India’s easy chase of the paltry sum that Australia had set.
In the 2nd test played at Hyderabad, Pujara made light-meal of the Australian pace attack. His fantastic 204 powered a significant 370 run stand with Murali Vijay, who shone with a princely 167. While the likes of Doherty, Maxwell and Watson. But, what stood out most from India’s memorable outing at Hyderabad was the fact that the 2nd wicket stand of 370 was just 6 run shy of Dravid and Laxman’s 376, the highest ever partnership against the Aussies.
Truth be told, it didn’t take long for viewers to see in Cheteshwar and Murali’s class act as having shades of poetic luminance, one that was evident of Dravid and Laxman’s commanding fight back during 2001.
Matching with Sir Don?
You would be laughed off to think that Pujara is in the same league. But, yes, at one time, the rate of his scoring in first class cricket, he was only second to Sir Donald Bradman. His 9 first-class doubles were indicative of a prominence and wizardry that only belonged to the legendary Bradman at the peak of his powers.
With his heart at the right place, showing tremendous maturity in the middle as he has time and again, it remains to be seen what Pujara can make of 2016 and the years beyond. Firmly parked in a test squad that has tall names of Kohli, Vijay, Dhawan and Rahane, it seems we can expect some monk-like innings from the earnest lad who bats from no. 3.