Australia vs India 2018-19: How Cheteshwar Pujara changed India's fortunes
2018 was always expected to be tough for Indian cricket because they had three difficult tours lined up. And one man who had a lot of responsibility for scoring runs in those tough series was Cheteshwar Pujara.
Everyone knew that Pujara's form was directly proportional to the team's results. The fact that Virat Kohli often prefers playing an extra bowler further increased the responsibility on him.
In South Africa, Pujara failed to make much of an impact and in no time India were 2-0 down in the Test series. A half century in the final Test saved his position and helped his team escape the embarrassment of a whitewash, but a total of 100 runs in 3 Tests was never going to be enough for a series win.
In England, it can be rightly said that every player struggled at some point apart from King Kohli. The overcast conditions combined with green pitches made for an extremely difficult challenge for the batters.
Pujara scored 72 when India won at Nottingham and a brilliant 132 in a losing cause at Southampton. Apart from those two knocks, he didn't contribute much and India lost the series 4-1.
In Australia, nobody was sure of Pujara's performance. Two mediocre tours earlier in the year meant that much wasn't expected of him Down Under. But in the first Test at Adelaide when India were 6 wickets down with less than 150 runs on the board, he batted brilliantly with the tail and scored a tremendous hundred which helped India take the lead early in the series.
After losing the second Test at Perth, the Indians knew it was now or never for them. It was at that critical juncture that Pujara scored another magnificent hundred and helped his team put up a mammoth 443 in the first innings on an rapidly deteriorating pitch.
India eventually won the Test and retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy, and a large share of the credit for that went to Pujara.
His dream tour has continued with a century in the final Test at SCG. Regardless of the result of this match, Pujara has entered the list of modern day Test greats.
India would hope his amazing form continues forever and after. If they are to win more overseas tours, Pujara will be the player central to their fortunes.