With Rahul Dravid’s retirement, the Wall of Indian cricket came down. The single biggest question at that moment was whether or not anyone was going to come close to replicating the level of patience, temperament and class of the Test former for India. The thought then was that there would be another batsman who’s wicket would present the same priceless feeling for bowlers, though it began to look like India would not be so lucky, before a man from Saurashtra, going by the name Cheteshwar Pujara came on the scene. Pujara’s qualities, both on and off the field resemble so much those of Rahul Dravid.
His technique and style of play have made experts feel there is a second ‘Wall’ for India after all.
A tireless double century
Pujara’s tireless, patient knock of 202 against the touring Australians in the Third Test in Ranchi not only saved India from losing the match, but also earned him significant praise and adulation. His innings was a piece of brilliance combined with class and composure at the extreme level. Breaking Dravid’s record of facing the most number of balls in an innings for India is a huge achievement, one he accomplished by staying at the crease for 688 minutes, facing 525 deliveries which showed the calm focus, control and concentration he possesses in spades.
He literally made the Australian bowlers try everything possible to remove him from the crease and, despite their best efforts, they simply failed to do so. Even at the end of his innings, it was more like he was throwing away his wicket in the search for cheap, quick runs than any bowler earning it.
Pujara’s ability to read the tough batting conditions so perfectly was astonishing and, on a pitch where everyone else seemed to be struggling, outside of a couple of exceptions, Cheteshwar often looked like he was playing on a completely different surface. With consummate ease, Pujara scored runs through his favoured leg-flicks and with patience he continuously ducked under the short pitched balls which barely seemed to trouble him at all.
In all, he now has 11 first class double hundreds, an amazing statistic which illustrates how consistently he can play and build long innings at the crease, a truly defining feature of his game.
India's number three
At number three now, India seem to have unearthed the perfect man to hold and steady an innings in toughest of situations and make sure there isn’t too much pressure on the middle order. His fitness levels have set a new standard for all youngsters wishing to play for the Indian Test team while he has been an inspiration to many, a not so easy feat for a player following in the footsteps and constantly being compared to a legend like Rahul Dravid. There are no doubt some truly exceptional talents in his game and a charm in the way he approaches the building of an innings, something that genuine lovers of traditional Test cricket identify with.
Pujara is one of those rare batsmen who make bowlers feel extra tired, simply by having to bowl to him and take part in the physical chess match of attacking him at the crease.
He rarely loses his calm, even rarer does he engage in sledging or firing back at particularly mouthy opposition or play a risky lofted shot, Cheteshwar Pujara knows one way to play the game, at his own pace, with a staid dedication, passion and patience. He is a batsman bowlers do not wish to bowl to and that is, indeed a special accomplishment.
What are your highlights from the career of Cheteshwar Pujara so far? Let us know in the comments below.