India vs Australia - Second Test, Day Two: Performer of the Day
Sehwag may have succumbed yet again without making a mark, but after the close of play on Day Two of the Border-Gavaskar Test series, plaudits for Cheteshwar Pujara’s inclusion into the Indian Test playing squad is definitely set to get more vociferous. Where once the whole nation mourned the loss of two giant middle-order batsmen in quick succession, this youngster seems to have laid claim to their gigantic cricketing breeches, within a short span of time. And so he proved yet again, with a combination of flair, cautiousness and dauntless shot-making.
The Indian cricket team’s test superiority on home grounds was severely shaken a few months ago when the English batsmen came, saw and ruthlessly exploited our weaknesses to their advantage. Barring the one Test match, which the team won – again, partly thanks to Pujara’s heroics – the nation was left humiliated, which made the Australian series even more important. More than reputation, it was the team’s pride and morale that were at stake.
Which is why Pujara’s contribution on Day Two mattered hugely, almost equivalent to a certain legend coming down to the pitch and taking his stance. The loss of one wicket with just 17 runs on the board, made the Aussies’ claim that they could restrict India to less than 230 even more plausible and Clarke’s decision to declare, even more convincing. With one opener gone and the other one still unsure of his own potential, the Aussies could have indeed struck a pot of gold, if not for Pujara’s stabilising presence.
And stabilising it was, even considering the fall that he sustained early on, trying to complete a run. Sedate during the start of the day’s play, but punishing each and every bowler as the sessions flew past, Pujara really took the match to the Australians. It wasn’t just painstaking, but meticulous and precise. When commentators – more specifically, Laxman – were speaking about a team crafting the team plan for the day, Pujara looked like he was crafting a subtle, yet unmistakable demolishing of the already battered Australian bowlers.
His hundred came off 188 runs with 14 fours included, just a few overs into the post-tea session. And, on the other end, as Vijay went on to compile his second hundred against the Aussies, Pujara started blitzkrieging the Aussie bowlers, as if in a hurry to pile on the runs – and heap on to Michael Clarke’s woes. David Warner, who was introduced as a part-time bowler to fill in for Doherty and Siddle before the second new ball could be taken, was taken in for a 14-run ride. An expense, that Michael Clarke could have well avoided.
Pujara’s struggle at the crease, running twos when any other decent batsman could have run three, might have garnered comments, but the gutsy hook shot that he pulled for a six to complete 150 runs should have been enough to silence everyone. As the cameras panned on his wife, clapping and grinning for her husband, the whole nation – or at least the girls’ population – would have probably wanted to be where she was. Rejoicing for the man who had brought the team this far.
Speaking for the Aussies, whether or not faulty team selection, Michael Clarke’s captaincy will be still complained about. Granted the inexperience of the squad with respect to the playing conditions in India, but even then, in a team that has really good batting talent, the inadequacy of the runs compiled has taken its toll on the bowlers. With a lead of over 70 runs already achieved with Pujara and Vijay still at the crease, and three more days to go, the Test match’s outcome seems to be guaranteed in India’s favour. Who knows, Pujara might get to yet another double hundred in this process. Ace performer, indeed.