Cheteshwar Pujara's change of intent leading to his downfall
18th August 2018, 3rd Test between India and England, India was off to a wonderful start as the two Indian openers showed some resilience in the early stages of the first day but soon after Chris Woakes struck. In a matter of few overs, Woakes showed his magic as he dismissed both Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul. India's skipper Virat Kohli and test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara were at the crease with one over to play before the lunch break.
26.4, Woakes to Pujara, short on the body, Pujara gets inside the line and pulls to the deep backward square where he finds Adil Rashid. Now, rewind back to the first test where Captain Kohli decided to leave out Cheteshwar Pujara for KL Rahul. The move baffled a few Indian fans and left others fuming. Before the commencement of the series, Pujara was being considered as one of the most dependable batsmen in this Indian lineup.
Pujara's arrival into international cricket dates back to 2010 but he came to the fore after Rahul Dravid's retirement from test cricket. Known to be his successor, Pujara's style of play was similar, his face reflected calmness and his body language revealed his everlasting perseverance. In the era of bullet trains, steam engines are left aside, to match the advanced trains, the steam engines must transform themselves.
Pujara is the batsman of the 80s who is consistently trying to transform himself into a modern-day batsman. The keys to surviving in test cricket are temperament and mental toughness which combine to form a deadly combination. Batting for long hours almost guarantees you big runs but the changing approach in test cricket has endangered test specialists.
The hype regarding Pujara's strike rate has had an ominous effect on his batting. His natural instinct to leave the ball has faded away and uncharacteristic Pujara shots have resulted in his downfall. The constant chirp in the ear disturbs most and the chirp in Pujara's ear has been to play an aggressive brand of cricket which he has failed to do in the past. How has Pujara's strike rate changed since his introduction to the aggressive brand of cricket?
Both, Pujara's strike rate and average have taken a toll in 2018. Two things can be blamed for this, first, Pujara's attempt to play the Kohli brand of cricket, second, the constant changing and chopping in the Indian XI. The 30-year-old's role can be simple yet complicated, he can hold up one hand as aggressive players like Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane play around him.
Evidently, Pujara v2.0 is disappointing. People call him 'a flat track bully', his away records are not particularly impressive but in the current scenario the statistics don't seem too bad. India's struggle outside the Indian subcontinent is well known.
Cheteshwar Pujara isn't the worse, but he isn't the best too. India's number three has been an average bet till now. A champion at home but tends to underperform in away conditions. With the change of intent working against him, Pujara should move back to his basics and his subtle art of leaving the ball should help him leave a mark.