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Cheteshwar Pujara’s assuring presence symbolises India’s hopes through the transition phase

Cheteshwar Pujara's assuring presence symbolises India's hopes through the transition phase

With each passing knock, there has been an assuring touch in Cheteshwar Pujara’s game © AFP

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

A new “Wall” is under construction.

Filling in the big shoes of the great Rahul Dravid, Cheteshwar Pujara has shown a gluttonous appetite for big scores. The comparisons are unavoidable as Pujara’s tenacity and determination are reminiscent of his illustrious predecessor at the one-drop slot. Battling a dodgy knee, Pujara showed incredible resolve to guts it out on the second day of the Hyderabad Test against Australia.

In his first 11 matches, Pujara has scored four Test centuries and a fifty. The lone fifty — 72 — came on his debut against Australia in October 2010 when he masterminded a successful fourth innings run-chase. There was a setback after those encouraging signs as injury ruled him out for quite some time. Making a comeback in the series against New Zealand last year, he wasted no time as he smashed his maiden Test hundred. With each passing knock, there has been an assuring touch in his game, symbolising India’s hopes through this transition phase.

At the end of second day of the ongoing Test at Hyderabad, Pujara’s runs tally stands at 975 in 18 innings at an average of 69.64. It is his 11th Test match and has a chance of becoming the second fastest Indian to 1,000 runs in the classical format. Here is the list of the 10 fastest Indians to 1,000 Test runs:

Player T I
Vinod Kambli 12 14
Sunil Gavaskar 11 21
Sanjay Manjrekar 14 23
Rahul Dravid 14 23
Sourav Ganguly 15 23
Virender Sehwag 16 24
Vijay Hazare 13 25
Sandeep Patil 16 25
Mohammad Azharuddin 16 25
Sadagoppan Ramesh 13 25

Currently batting in his 18th innings, Pujara is poised to take the second spot. Only Vinod Kambli would be untouched as a bright start to his career saw him set a high benchmark. However, if Pujara gets to the 1,000 run mark before the 21st innings, it would place him ahead of Sunil Gavaskar, Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he does it at Hyderabad given his resolute approach and flair. It would be a milestone well deserved and one he would hope to build upon.

Virender Sehwag vs Gautam Gambhir debate

The once prolific opening firm of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir was under intense scrutiny until the latter was axed in the lead up to the Australia series. However, statistics would show that Sehwag’s recent struggle has matched Gambhir. Yet Sehwag finds a spot in the side. There isn’t much to choose between the two if one narrows down to a particular time interval. Here are their respective records in Test cricket post the 2011 World Cup:

Player T R Ave HS 100s 50s
Virender Sehwag 17 892 29.73 117 1 5
Gautam Gambhir 16 787 28.10 83 0 5

Gambhir’s axing came in the backdrop of the home series defeat to England. But, it is interesting to note that the southpaw and his partner Sehwag were amongst India’s top three run getters in that series. If one looks at their records for that outing, one would see some striking similarities:

Player T R Ave HS 100s 50s
Virender Sehwag 4 253 36.14 117 1 0
Gautam Gambhir 4 251 41.83 65 0 2

The bespectacled Sehwag hasn’t looked himself against Australia. During his latest outing, one could see him struggling in the centre; it wasn’t a pretty sight. What the statistics above suggest is that if Gambhir can be axed, Sehwag may not be far away. The selectors have already taken the brave call of omitting him from the one-day side and going by his current run, it may not be a surprise if they do the same for the whites. The Delhi dasher desperately needs a big score to avoid the fate of his state-mate.

(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)

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