Cheteshwar Pujara – India’s new No 3 – has worked his way to his second Test hundred to welcome the touring Englishmen to India. The Saurashtra batsman has been run-machine at the domestic cricket for years and is increasingly showing signs of replicating the same consistency at the highest level. Rahul Dravid’s retirement left a huge void at the one-drop slot, but Pujara presents hope for a bright future with his copybook technique and disciplined approach to the game.
While people often talk about Virat Kohli being the symbol of hope in this transition phase for India, Pujara’s role should not be overlooked. The No 3 is undoubtedly very crucial and Dravid had scripted a number of match-winning and match-saving innings at that position. Carrying forward that legacy isn’t going to be easy and to fill in those shoes is a big ask. Nevertheless, Pujara has risen to the occasion whenever the opportunity has come his way. He may not be as flamboyant as Kohli, but provides the much-needed stability at one-drop.
In the ongoing Test at Ahmedabad, Pujara showed no signs of nerves and started from where he left off against New Zealand. The flicks through the leg-side were a regular feature in his innings and one could see that he can use his wrists well to turn the ball around. During the last series, he had shown fantastic discipline outside the off-stump and would attack deliveries in that zone whenever it was there for the taking. However, the wicket at Ahmedabad doesn’t have much bounce and he had to adjust his game accordingly.
In an exclusive interview with CricketCountry, Pujara had said that it was unfair to compare him to Dravid. However, like the veteran batsman, Pujara has shown the ability to handle both the fast bowlers and the spinners. Dravid was fantastic while playing the spinners – so much so that the England team are studying his videos to pick up finer points. Pujara, too, has exhibited quick footwork while playing the spinners. He can dance down the track to reach the pitch of the ball or even transfer his weight back if he sees it pitched a little short. What this tells us is that he has time on his hands and the ability to pick the spinner early.
Dravid developed the aura of dependability early in his career as he was often the calming influence in the hour of crisis. His mere presence in the middle was assuring as he would fight even when struggling. Pujara has done the same on many occasions in domestic cricket to help Saurashtra through. The comparison may not be fair according to him, but it is a natural conclusion given Dravid’s legacy and Pujara’s promise. It will take him time to build the same aura and he is well on his way to do it.
India can mark a few ticks in the box as far as their batting is concerned as Pujara’s ton has come at the back of an important opening partnership. It may only be the second day of the series, but has set the tone for India in the games to come. With Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag laying the foundation, Pujara could capitalise and build his innings. He held firm even as wickets fell at the other end and has played the sheet anchor’s role after Sehwag’s dismissal. India’s hopes of a big score would depend on him and Pujara’s contest with Graeme Swann may be decisive in that regard.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)