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Cheteshwar Pujara-Virat Kohli partnership crucial for India in the long-run

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Virat Kohli (left) and Cheteshwar Pujara put on a 191-run unbeaten partnership against South Africa on Day 3 © Getty Images

Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli’s sterling partnership helped India take control on Day Three of the first Test against South Africa at Johannesburg. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at the partnership and what it means for India in the long-run.

 

 

It was a day when India’s young brigade dazzled the stage and tamed the world’s best fast-bowling attack. Having taken on the mantle from the bygone generation, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli lit up the stage in India’s first Test in the post-Sachin Tendulkar era. There was that dash of youth coupled with the maturity of a seasoned veteran. At the end of the One-Day International (ODI) series, the doomsday prophets predicted the worst for India in the longer format, but this side is unfazed by such criticisms and is always up for the challenge. Pujara and Kohli symbolised that very fight with their sterling partnership that has helped India take control at Johannesburg.

 

Both Pujara and Kohli have stepped into significant roles — spots left vacant by their illustrious predecessors. While Pujara stepped into the No 3 slot in August 2012, replacing Rahul Dravid, Kohli only fit into Tendulkar’s No 4 batting position during this Test. It must be noted that Tendulkar and Dravid were India’s most dependable pair in Tests and hold the record for the most runs by a pair in the format. In tandem, they scored 6920 runs at an average of 50.51. In their short Test careers so far, Pujara and Kohli have complemented each other well and are leading partners for each other.

 

The below mentioned table lists their partnership record so far:

 

I

R

Ave

100s

50s

HS

10*

751

93.87

3

3

191*

 

*Including second innings of first Test against South Africa. Figures updated till end of Day Three.

 

In 10 innings, they already average close to 100 and it is a phenomenal record. They have recorded three century partnerships and three fifty-run stands, which means they have succeeded in their endeavour six times out of ten occasions. These are early days for the duo, but they have already shown good co-ordination and understanding in the middle. Barring the run-out in the first innings, their calling and judgment have been good.

 

Kohli is the more flamboyant of the two. He would flay the bowling and always looks to score runs. Pujara, on the other hand, is more conservative in his approach early on and only gets into his stride once he gets his eye-in. During the initial phase of their partnership on Day Three, Kohli was a little more proactive. But, given the time Pujara had spent at the crease, he was waiting for his opportunities to score.

 

Thereafter, Pujara pounced on every scoring opportunity, eclipsing his seemingly more attacking partner. There was a phase when Kohli moved from 52 to 54, Pujara sped away to 121 from 88. That shows the way he dominated the bowling and did all the scoring. It was proof of the fact that he can take the attack to the opposition ranks when needed. He did shift gears according to the situation. Early on, he had to play the waiting game and see off the initial bite. Once, he got settled at the crease, he just unleashed an array of fine strokes.

 

One of the most striking features of his batting was the way Pujara carted deliveries through the off-side. During the early phase, he was leaving deliveries outside the off-stump. However, he then rocked back and smashed them with power to pick up the boundaries between the gaps. It just gave ample proof of his remarkable balance and poise at the crease.

 

Proof of Pujara’s attacking ability

 

One must also consider the fact that India scored 175 runs in the final session — 96 of them came off Pujara’s bat. Those 96 runs came off only 114 balls with 14 boundaries. These numbers show the right sort of acceleration needed for a Test match, that too against the likes of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Jacques Kallis. They did lose Morne Morkel to injury, but even without the tall seamer, South Africa had enough quality in the attack.

 

So, what is it that keeps him out of the One-Day International (ODI) side? Perhaps, it is only due to the fact that there is no place for him in the side. Pujara has a fantastic List A record and has shown that he can bat aggressively. During one of the double centuries he hit during the last domestic season, he moved from 150 to 200 in only 17 deliveries. But, with a settled top-order and an explosive middle-order too, Pujara has to wait for his chances. He can’t be stereotyped into one of those defensive batsmen, as he has shown that he can play shots. A classy player can fit into any format and Pujara can do a fine job in ODIs when given a chance.

 

This tour marks the beginning of a new era for Indian cricket as Sachin Tendulkar is no longer with the side. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the 1996 tour to England when Sourav Ganguly and Dravid burst onto the scene. When compared to 1990s, the scenario is different in the sense that Tendulkar needed someone to support and Dravid as well as Ganguly made their debut tons. This time around, Pujara and Kohli have some experience behind them, and they have given a similar kind of confidence and assurance of carrying the mantle of shoring up the batting line-up in the years to come. India have stepped into a new phase with a bang. A victory will only make it more special. The job is not yet done.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

 

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