Cheteshwar Pujara vs Kane Williamson: A statistical comparison
The exit of individuals who have become more than a familiar face in their chosen fields is always a teary-eyed moment. Filled with memories of their nostalgic contributions, one cannot help but wonder if their shoes will be filled ever. Their selfless performances are always applauded; their legacies always linger on.
Time heals all, they say. Soon, very soon, separate breeds of beings engulf the arena, reminding one and all of the ones that departed. Silently, in their own quiet way, they stamp their own individuality en-route to greater missions and accomplishments.
The realm of sports too remains very similar. Legends depart and just when one is sure that their efforts can never be matched, a younger set of talented players arrive, desiring to do just that. Over time, they carve their own legacies and even though they fail to replace the earlier legends, these athletes in their own way set themselves up for greater stardom.
Pujara and Williamson: Great talents in Test cricket
The T20 revolution brought with it a legion of cricketers who never hesitated to voice their preference for the shortest format of the game, whilst many others brought forward their T20 skills into the Test arena. The days of block-and-defend deliveries for hours and hours seemed to evaporate with the retirement of Rahul Dravid and even though Test cricket still carried on, the traditional method of playing was on the verge of extinction.
Enter Cheteshwar Pujara. Patient. Flawless. Technical. Possessing the armoury to confidently battle it out on the crease for 665 minutes and 525 deliveries at a stretch requires grit and stamina.
Pujara’s batting is widely contrasted to New Zealand’s youngest batting sensation Kane Williamson, who has already been termed a potential great alongside Virat Kohli, Steven Smith and Joe Root. Defined by a calm persona, the excellent player of spin, in his short Test career, has already achieved great heights.
Pujara played his first match against Australia in Bengaluru in October 2010, while Williamson debuted for New Zealand when they toured India in November of the same year. The two prodigies made their mark in their very first Test match. While the Kiwi blasted his maiden hundred, a mammoth 131, Pujara scored 72 runs as he helped India race away with a victory.
The initial euphoria was replaced by anxiety as both players succumbed to the pressure that Test cricket brought with it. However, the duo soon cemented their places with strong performances and emerged as the mainstays of their respective nations.
A look at the overall Test figures of Pujara and Williamson reveals two batsmen with astounding averages, indicating why both India and New Zealand continue to rally around them.
After averaging just 2 in 2011, Pujara racked up averages above 75 in the following two years. A slight blip in 2014, where he averaged just 24.15 was swiftly remedied, and he managed to average in excess of 50 in each calendar year since then. In seven matches this year, the right-hander has already notched up 800 runs, making him the first batsman to achieve the feat this season.
Williamson’s meteoric rise after 2012, in which he averaged 32.88, is a testament to the talent that he possesses. Since 2014, he has averaged in excess of 64 in Test cricket, with 13 of his 17 centuries coming in the last four years. In the process, he broke the great Martin Crowe’s record of 15 centuries. He averages more than 50 per innings and is undoubtedly one of the finest youngsters on the circuit.
The all-important number 3 spot: What the figures reveal
Having the ability to adapt to all kinds of situations is what separates the best from the rest. This task is especially difficult for a number three batsman, who has to carefully adapt to all kinds of situations.
Both Pujara and Williamson have played a majority of their innings’ at the crucial number 3 spot and have comfortably managed to consolidate and build innings, be it after a flying start or an early dismissal.
Their almost similar stats give a glimpse of how well they continue to perform their roles for their respective sides.
The fact that both Williamson and Pujara have played a major part of their careers sans a stable opening pair makes the above figures all the more admirable.
While Williamson averages 51.93 batting at number 3 overseas, Pujara’s average drops from 53.92 to 39.46 whenever he bats outside India, courtesy his unflattering records in England and New Zealand.
Performances in different conditions: a display of technique
Away from the familiar by-lanes, a true Test player’s skills are measured when he is caught up in pressure situations in alien conditions. If he still manages to script consistent performances when he is away from the comfort of his home soil, he is on course to becoming a great of the game.
It is not surprising to see that Williamson has a high average in all countries except South Africa. Other than South Africa and to an extent, England, his steady scores across all corners of the globe make him the lynchpin of the batting order. The 26-year-old has justified his tag of being a great player of spin with a healthy average in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. However, he failed to score a hundred in India after his memorable 131 and a poor series against them in 2012 and even 2016 led to a plummeting of his average.
However, what is rather shocking is Pujara’s below par scores in England, New Zealand and even West Indies, where he averages a notch more than 30. Against Australia, he averages 55.05 at home, which falls to 33.50 when he tours Down Under. Even against England, his average of 22.20 in England is in sharp contrast to his average of 46.13 in India. His great performances have come mainly in India and Sri Lanka, with three of his four overseas centuries being scored in the Emerald Isle. His fourth was scored in South Africa.
From January 2018, India tour South Africa, England and Australia which will give Pujara ample opportunity to rectify his poor averages in those countries.
Contributions as the Test progresses
A Test match is challenging due to the different levels of difficulty that are presented on separate days, innings and conditions. In India, generally, the first two days are the best for batting, after which the pitch undergoes wear and tear, making it difficult for the batsmen. In Australia, South Africa and England the green wicket up front provides a different challenge. However, all in all, the pressure of battling it out in either the third or the fourth innings, when the team needs to be saved from the jaws of defeat is unparalleled and a century when the team is batting second gives a fair indication of the mettle of the player.
Pujara remains a first innings maverick. Even though his average steadily dips as the innings progresses, one should not be fooled by the numbers alone.
Out of his seven hundreds in first innings of matches, only one has resulted in a loss. He has played a whopping 3525 balls in the process, occupying the crease for large amounts of time and guiding his team to massive totals.
He has batted in the fourth innings 15 times, with four of those matches ending in defeat.
As for Williamson, his average of 66.9 in the fourth innings of a match is second only to the great Sir Don Bradman! He has scored three centuries in 15 innings out of which none have been in losing causes.
Contribution in wins and draws
The value of a player undoubtedly depends on whether he can guide his team to victories or notch up face-saving draws. The greatest of players have been unable to contribute when the team has needed them the most.
Out of the 50 matches that Pujara has been a part of, only 10 have ended in defeat. In the other 40 that have been won or drawn, he has averaged a whopping 62.42. He has faced 7183 deliveries in wins or losses, which is almost 85% of the total deliveries he has faced in his career! Pujara, as mentioned above, performs predominantly in the first innings and in wins or losses, his average goes up to 82.17, which is enough to put the team in a strong position.
Out of Williamson’s 15 centuries in wins or draws, seven have been scored overseas. In wins, he averages 75.29. However, it is his contributions in 4th innings of matches that catch the eye. In seven innings, he has remained unbeaten on five occasions, scoring three centuries in the process. A strike rate of 63.74 in wins or draws in the fourth innings gives a glimpse of Williamson’s ability to take the game away from the opposition.
It is often difficult to make comparisons based on just numbers. Even though Williamson averaged in excess of 35 against bowlers like James Anderson, Kagiso Rabada, Mitchell Starc, Morne Morkel, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazelwood and Mohammad Shami amongst others, one cannot assume that they were at the peak of their powers at that specific period. This applies to Pujara as well who often swept aside Anderson, Steyn and Imran Tahir.
Even though a definite conclusion cannot be arrived at just by looking at their numbers, what is clear is that the two players have definitely cemented themselves as greats of the game.