Cheteshwar Pujara: From Johannesburg to Adelaide
Some say Cheteshwar Pujara is boring. However, were it not his so-called mundane and humdrum existence, India would have begun their tour of Australia on a disastrous note. The 246-ball 123 allowed the visitors to register a competitive total during the first day's play at Adelaide.
This was a typical Pujara knock. For when he is at the crease, it is as if he meditates doggedly by pouring his entire concentration into an art he has practised all his life on dry Rajkot tracks. His game is so compact that his hands are close to the body and eyes always on the ball.
And in many of India's collapses like in the first innings against Australia at Adelaide, Pujara has stood tall like a lone ranger in a house being blown away. This is where he goes into a zone, some might call it a shell. It's a zone where risks reduce to zero. It takes something special to send him back; that something special was a run-out in Adelaide.
In such mighty adversity, Pujara produces innings of slow grind and grit. One of his purposeful knocks was played in this year but has never been appreciated fully.
The setting was a dicey pitch at Johannesburg. It was the third Test match of India's tour of South Africa on the 24th of January.
After losing the first two matches and the series, they were sent into bat on a dangerous surface. Pujara crossed paths with KL Rahul who had been sent back for a seven-ball duck by Vernon Philander's relentless spell. The pressure was on and the runs were not coming.
Pujara took guard as the South African seamer steamed in. It took him 53 balls to get off the mark. Before Andile Phehlukwayo finally induced the edge from his bat, he had compiled a patient 50 from 179 deliveries. Most importantly, his staunch vigil allowed India to reach a score of 187 on a menacing track.
India's pacers rose to the occasion to subdue the South African batting lineup. Virat Kohli's team won the Test by 63 runs. Pujara's innings was recorded at a strike-rate of 27.93. But his marathon effort proved to be crucial as only three batsmen could reach double digits in India's first innings.
Pujara's knocks may not be entertaining to watch or feature in the grand record books. However, his dedication and tenacity has helped India redeem pride in tough places like Johannesburg and Adelaide.