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Cheteshwar Pujara plays a few shots that are reminiscent of Rahul Dravid and they will help him succeed in England, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.
The last time India toured England, they were humiliated and battered during the 4-0 defeat. The once famed batting line-up was struggling to come to terms to the tricks of swing. However, one man stood tall through the ruins. Rahul Dravid batted with that air of dependability and gave India some hope of success. Even as India’s woes piled as the tour progressed, Dravid fought hard and gave an outstanding account of his technique and class. Three years down the line, Dravid’s successor, Cheteshwar Pujara faces similar hopes.
There has always been a comparison between Dravid and Pujara. Here is a youngster with a good head on his shoulders, excellent technique and the hunger for big runs. It was due to his presence that India were able to move into the transition phase with lesser pangs of pain. Scoring six tons in his first 19 Tests, Pujara has inspired confidence and presented hope with his solidity and discipline. In England, he will be crucial, perhaps a little more than Virat Kohli.
Late last year, Pujara showed during the tour to South Africa that he can perform overseas. Against the Dale Steyn-led attack, Pujara impressed with a mixture of discipline and aggression. Though he had a tough tour to New Zealand, he remains India’s biggest hope in England. His supreme technique is what will help him counter the swing and play the seamers well. He has been to England only once before with the India A team and had a very successful outing there.
Though Pujara’s style of play is different, he does have one thing in common with Dravid. Like the previous No 3, he watches the ball well, plays it close to the body and can essay a shot as late as possible. The last time, Dravid scored a lot of runs through third-man. He covered the movement of the ball very well and then opened the face of the bat at the last moment. That is something one can see in Pujara’s game as well. He can do that to great effect and is one shot that can be very productive for him.
The other shot Pujara will bank on is the Dravid’ like the backfoot punch. Pujara has shown a penchant to play that stroke as he stands tall and crunches it through the off-side. In England, that could be useful as the bowlers may probe him outside the off-stump. With the discipline he has shown, Pujara can decide which shot to play and what not to. He carries India’s hopes on this tour for the very reason that he invokes Dravid’s calm. Though he has had a few overseas Tests, this five-match series will be a huge leap for him.
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