Is Pujara Dravid in disguise?
The India – England test series, the grudge series, or the revenge series, which the media and the broadcasters have been projecting it as, has finally started in Ahmadabad, and as expected India are on top of England with two days of the first test played.
India got off to the best possible start after winning the toss and electing to bat, with the two out of form openers putting up a solid 134-run opening stand. When Gambhir got out after lunch, in came Cheteshwar Pujara at number three, a position which was occupied for a long time in the Indian batting line up by the Great Wall of India, Rahul Dravid.
After Rahul Dravid’s retirement from the all forms of cricket following the two humiliating overseas defeats at the hands of England and Australia, there was only one name that would have clicked in the Indian selectors’ heads to replace that spot of his, and it was none other than Pujara, courtesy his tremendous record in the domestic circuit.
So what would the former number three have done after being handed such a good platform? Grinding his way at the start of the innings, piling up runs slowly and steadily without notice, surviving good spells of bowling, holding the innings together, scoring a big hundred and helping the team bat the opposition out of the match by putting up a huge first innings score. Pujara delivered exactly this same sort of innings which the Wall, Dravid, would have played in such a scenario.
Pujara joined Sehwag, who was going great guns right from the start, and started the innings cautiously and luckily as Anderson misjudged a leading edge from him at mid-on. However, there were no such mistakes after that. He was in his prime after the first hour, using his feet to Swann, coming down the pitch and hitting towards the covers, using his wrists to carve out elegant flicks off pacers, and punishing the short ones from the part timer Samit Patel by pulling them towards mid-wicket.
The Saurashtra batsman, known for his big scores at the domestic level, was right up there to prove the same at international level, doing it to perfection by scoring a double hundred in just the sixth match of his international career, and in the process surpassing his previous best of 159 against the West Indies.
Pujara has certainly made the number three spot his own, and has shown the world that he is one who can best fill the shoes of Rahul Dravid in the current Indian batsmen. His wonderful temperament, which allows him to build long innings by playing hours and hours, a near perfect technique enabling a strong defence, and an elegant stroke-making ability are all the qualities which his predecessor had, and he resonates them quite brilliantly. This eight-hour long innings just proves it.
Though he failed to impress in South African conditions batting at number six, it has been almost two years since that tour, and he has evolved as a batsman through this time, taking up responsibility at the top of the order, and scoring two big hundreds in the last three matches. He is now for sure the future of Indian Cricket at the difficult number three batting position in the test cricket.