The stage is set for Team India to collide with Australia for the upcoming World Test Championship (WTC) Final 2021-23. The much-awaited fixture is scheduled to be played at the Kennington Oval in London from June 7-11.
Much will be dependent on the shoulders of Cheteshwar Pujara, who is expected to glue the Indian innings together throughout the match.
Pujara would certainly look to stamp his authority in the highly anticipated encounter against Australia and spearhead the Indian batting unit with aplomb.
Ahead of the WTC final, we take a look at three reasons why Cheteshwar Pujara will be India's most important player against Australia.
#3 His experience of playing County Cricket in England
The fact that Pujara is the only Indian batter to ply his trade in the County Championship, the domestic tournament of England, this year will give him a huge advantage.
The Indian right-hander was signed by Sussex last year and he has been extremely prolific in his stint in England. In the ongoing County Championship Divison Two, Pujara has stuck 545 runs at an average of 68.1, including three centuries. He is currently the second-highest run-getter in the tournament.
Pujara has also captained Sussex in the first six games and the side is currently placed second on the points table.
While the quality of bowlers may not match up to what he will face in the WTC final, he'll have gotten to play some challenging deliveries in testing conditions and have an overall better idea of how to approach and build an innings in England.
#2 Other batters might find it challenging to adapt to the conditions, unlike Pujara
As an extension of the previous point, Pujara will not have a problem in adapting to the conditions, unlike other Indian batters. He has been in England for almost two months now and is also in the thick of red-ball action extensively.
Other Indian batters will enter the WTC final after a high-octane IPL 2023. Barring Pujara, all the members of the Indian squad were part of the marquee league and might find it challenging to make adjustments from T20 cricket to red-ball cricket right away.
Pujara's form and his inputs will be invaluable for Team India if they are to have any chance of clinching the title against Australia.
#1 His impressive record vs Australia
The Australian bowling attack will know the value of Pujara's wicket. After all, he is the man who single-handedly made them sick with his dogged character and ability to bat tirelessly.
Apart from his history of tiring out the Aussie attack, Pujara also has some exceptional numbers against them.
Over the years, Pujara has been a cornerstone of India's success against the Aussies and has come up with multiple clutch knocks both home and away. In fact, Australia have been his favorite hunting team, having amassed a total of 2033 runs at an average of 50.8 in 24 matches (his most against any Test team).
Pujara is India's highest run-getter against Australia (among current batters). The 35-year-old is expected to take confidence from his record against the Aussies and become the linchpin of India's batting in the all-important WTC final in London.