Test cricket has a unique ability to examine the mettle of a player and Cheteshwar Pujara has given his fair share of exams in this dimension. The renowned boxer Nicola Adams once said,
"I'm like a 'comeback kid' - you can't keep me down for long!"
It's a strong statement of self-belief and Cheteshwar Pujara has been a personification of this spirit ever since he first broke into the Indian team.
A closer look at Pujara's Test career shows a story with a whole lot of ups and downs. There came numerous occasions where he created records, rose to the occasion, delivered like a true anchor, and guided his team to victory.
Many a time, he earned the respect of fans, veterans, and opposition alike with his astute determination and stellar performances.
"Well, he (Cheteshwar Pujara) is Rahul Dravid all over again. Isn’t he? Well, I was lucky enough to play against the Great Wall. Very similar parts to Pujara’s game. He is very tough, he doesn’t give it away. He has copped criticism, people were saying Cummins had his measure but they just couldn’t get him out. He copped everything but he didn’t change his natural game. That’s why he deserves so much credit".
But a piece of gold can't be a beautiful ornament unless it survives the hard hammering of tough tools. While the Saurashtra batsman has earned accolades and esteem with his performances, he has also endured a lot of rough patches in his career.
After every tough blow, he subjected himself to more hard work while being himself in terms of approach. Thus far, he has, mostly, managed to get over lean patches of batting form.
The battles and the counter-attack of Cheteshwar Pujara
- Debuted in 2010 against Australia, scored 72 when India required 207 to win. Dropped from the side after tour of South Africa a few weeks later. Made his comeback in 2012 against New Zealand where he scored his maiden Test century. He carried on and became the 2nd fastest Indian to score 1000 Test runs.
- He was the leading run-scorer against South Africa on the 2013 tour.
- In 2014, he dealt with poor form during India's tour to England where he was critized for a string of low scores, especially in seaming conditions.
- He returned to form in 2015 by being the most dependable batter of the side. He converted flak to praise by doing exceptionally well in the coming few years.
- Not only he took India out of trouble many times, he scored a lot of runs including centuries and double centuries. His 11-hour knock against Australia is highly appreciated till date.
- After a lukewarm stint for Yorkshire and some ordinary performances for India, he once again recovered from and did well against England in 2018. He carried the form to Australia for the 2018-19 season where his splendid performances earned him a lot of respect.
- Bad form returned and his bat couldn't produce good performances for India. He once again strived hard and delivered some spectaular knocks aginst Australia where his long outings at the crease led India to another series victory in Australia.
- Lean phase returns yet again.....keep reading , Dear Reader.
Recent times haven't been kind to Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara's performance was affected again as the lean phase returned to haunt him. After a disappointing outing in the World Test Championship final, his dismal showings continued in the home series against New Zealand.
"The Dependable" was heavily accused of not handling pressure well, low strike rate, lack of self-belief, and a change of mindset. His tactics against short balls were also questioned and he was demoted from his central BCCI contract.
Once again, Pujara was dropped out of the team for the Sri Lanka series. It's noteworthy that there are a lot of talented players claiming the middle order spot. The fact that he hasn't been able to register a century for 2 years has gone against him.
Making a statement with the bat to re-claim his spot
Cheteshwar Pujara is hungry to show what he is capable of. He recently made his return to the County Championship tournament, this time for Sussex. He absolutely took the Derbyshire bowlers to the cleaners as he went on to carve out a magnificent unbeaten double-century - 201 runs off 387 balls.
He followed it with another classy century knock of 109 runs off 184 balls against Worcestershire. Cheteshwar Pujara is absolutely brimming with self-belief and his performances are now knocking on the doors of the selection committee with authority.
He has gone the extra mile in terms of efforts to rectify the issues he was struggling with that led to his axing from the team. It will be interesting to see more of his upcoming performances and the Indian selection committee's take on him for the upcoming tour of England.
Poll : Will Pujara make a truimphent return for India in the upcoming series?