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Cheteshwar Pujara- Constructing a new wall of his own

India v New Zealand: 1st Test - Day Two

Preserve his photos, bookmark the articles eulogizing him, and savour every big moment of his cricketing career as he is bound to produce many successful days for himself in cricket. The decisive footwork, the water-tight defence, and the straightness of the willow makes Cheteshwar Pujara’s ascent as a world class batsman a certainty. His name would certainly feature among the pantheons of greats if we were to extrapolate his success as a cricketer in the last couple of years.

Pujara’s forward defence is straight from the coaching manual. Whether he is batting in his 300s or zero, the USP of that shot is the compactness. And here is where Pujara stands head and shoulders above some of the other young batsmen. Going for a lofted shot anytime it is not required in the innings is a profanity against his religion called “batsmanship”. His favourite accomplice has been his immaculate concentration, which has helped Pujara scale three scores in excess of 150 in Test cricket, which is quite commendable. As Pujara keeps on batting, he starts entering a zone where he starts seeing the ball early, even before the bowler releases it. “Seeing the ball like a football”- A commentator’s jargon to describe this phenomenon.

Not very long ago, people were comparing this young Saurashtra lad with the Wall – Rahul Dravid. The feature writers called him ‘The Wall- Version 2.0’; a few other writers prophesied greatness from this batsman, but their fundamental principle was to avoid comparing Pujara with any other batsman. Quite often we cannot find the “next Tendulkar” simply because there can never be a next Tendulkar. Isn’t it unfair for a person who bears the brunt of the comparison and often gets to hear that you are no good than the person we compared you with? We have not found out Tendulkar’s heir apparent simply because the abundance of God-given talent that the maestro possesses is not easy to find in any other cricketer. But for Pujara, like Dravid, the road to success is only hard work and single-minded resolve to play the ball according to its merit. He banks on his immaculate timing to score runs and avoids the aerial shots.

Making belligerence look beautiful personifies Sehwag, manoeuvring the ball from off-stump towards mid-wicket exemplifies Laxman and making the art of batting look majestic embodies Tendulkar. The beauty of Pujara’s batting lies in the simplicity of the art. No fancy movement before the bowler delivers the ball, no extravagant shots against the bowlers when he reaches any milestone, and more importantly – the constant desire to look for runs. He has a triple hundred at practically every level of cricket apart from Test cricket (under-14, under-19, under-22 and the Ranji Trophy). The habit of decimating attacks is not a newly found art. It is in its tenth year and will continue to haunt the bowlers around the world in the years to come.

Pujara has no doubt added a brick to the prevailing legacy of the wall. One only hopes that Pujara grows as a Test batsman and serves the Indian team at least for another decade with lots of big scores. He has the propensity to get real big scores. Looking at his batting, one gets the feeling that Pujara might get a triple ton very soon. And rest assured, he will not have the audacity to jump out of his crease and deposit the ball over mid-wicket for a six. He will construct the runs like a working ant and the 300th run will be like just another run.

The celebrations will be the usual – taking the helmet off, kissing the Indian crest and taking the leg stump guard. It will be business as usual thereafter.

Pujara’s road towards glory is still under construction. For now, the under-constructed road built courtesy of simplicity and determination promises to be a magnum opus.

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