Cheteshwar Pujara was picked up by Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore respectively, without getting much recognition in the league © Getty Images
Cheteshwar Pujara was picked up by Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore respectively, without getting much recognition in the league © Getty Images

The franchises have all unfurled their new jerseys. Players who will be donning different coloured flannels in this edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) have been welcomed by the mainstays of the respective clubs through informal orientation sessions. Flashy media events, sponsor-arranged rendezvous and plenty such shows to keep scribes scurrying, ones that add to the razzmatazz of the league, have commenced.  Cheteshwar Pujara joins Sachin Tendulkar’s former county club Yorkshire

Observing from the fringes hardly gives one an idea of the hullabaloo. When Kyle Abbott was surprised by the primarily Indian throng that engulfed the team bus prior to their departure to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) — where they would face India in a World Cup fixture — Dale Steyn promptly told his teammate that he had just got an “early [and perhaps diluted] taste of what the IPL will be like”. Cheteshwar Pujara not justifying the ‘Next Rahul Dravid’ tag

Unfortunately, Cheteshwar Pujara will not be a part of the razzle-dazzle this year. In the previous seasons, he was considered (and, on some counts, played for) Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), but failed to impress the spectators and employers alike. Contrary to widespread belief, it’s not the lack of ability in shorter formats that proved to be a hindrance for Pujara. His blitzkriegs in domestic cricket — his 203 against Madhya Pradesh and 352 against Karnataka in 2013, both scored at an impressive pace — are cases in point.  Cheteshwar Pujara faces crucial series in Australia following England nightmare

Pujara, too, is keen to wield his willow in this alluring league. He’s aware that performances in the IPL matter, for the tournament features some of the best bowlers in the world. After a few slips in T20s, Pujara, in an interview to this website, said “I’ve learnt from my mistakes and can apply myself better hereafter.”

Nonetheless it wasn’t meant to be with IPL. Injuries, and perhaps a lack of a clear-defined role can be plausible reasons, but Pujara is not one to brandish excuses.

To be left out of the commotion this year must have put a damper on his hopes of making the T20 or One-Day International (ODI) cut, but it has brought with it an opportunity that might hold him in good stead for the future. Pujara was signed by Yorkshire for the first part of the English county season. Although the joust is a far cry from the glitz of IPL, and the climate, in stark contrast, literally sombre, it is a path that could well lead to the resurrection of a promising Test career in Indian colours.

Pujara — a stolid No.3 and once touted by many within the fraternity as a natural successor to Rahul Dravid – looked out of sorts against the Australian quicks. His form deteriorated to an extent that a wobbly Indian batting line-up decided it could do sans him for the last leg of that series. His career, prior to the blip, was exemplary, which thereby lends credit to the theory that the setback could be temporary.

Nevertheless, past accomplishments no longer serve as ticket to a berth in this Indian squad, and Pujara will have to prove his worth like any other player lingering on the periphery of selection. And a county stint is the most pragmatic way to instigate that comeback.

As much as Pujara would like to state otherwise, he appears svelte only in the longer version of the game. This has perhaps to do with the training imparted by Arvind Pujara, his father — himself a First-Class player. Arvind was sort of an evangelist of the Bat Straight school. He ensured his son faced 50 or 100 hard leather balls at a time every morning in his formative years, insisting each time that he play straight. This proves evidence of a solid foundation, one that can be fine-tuned if ever it went astray. Now that there’s a deviation, county cricket could help lead it back to its destined track.

During the tour of Australia in 1999-00, Dravid underwent a strenuous phase. Having been considered an integral member, a bulwark against all attacks until then, he was soon staring at an adze. Despite a sound foundation and a strongbox of experience, he started to doubt himself more than ever before. He signed for Kent and a six-month stint there transformed his game. Dravid believed the opportunity to play county cricket came at the right time, for he needed a new environment where he could untangle from the pressures that are by-products of constant public scrutiny. Once there, he truly enjoyed his craft, amassing runs like only he could.

Which is why this move to Yorkshire looks propitious to Pujara, and India’s batting order. He may not want to be associated with Dravid’s shoes, but this is one path of his predecessor’s Pujara wouldn’t mind following step to step.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kartikparimal