Not allowed to celebrate festivals or play with a tennis ball: The unconventional life of Cheteshwar Pujara
As glamorous as the game of cricket is, it is not always about the most graceful of strokes or the smoothest of actions: the seam is not always straight and the top elbow is not always aligned. Cheteshwar Pujara’s batting does not evoke adjectives like ‘beautiful or graceful’, but the sheer tenacity with which he bats is remarkable in itself.
The latest visitor on the internet talk-show What The Duck, Pujara takes us through his disciplined childhood, one which was as mechanised as that of a military kid.
You can watch the full episode here.
Australian team once requested him to get out
Earlier this year, he broke the Indian record for facing the most deliveries in a single Test innings, soldiering on for a mind-boggling 512 balls. He didn’t even realise that he had reached the coveted mark and finally found out about it only when his teammates began clapping and cheering for him from the pavilion.
Batting on 180 during the third Test between India and Australia in Ranchi, Pujara was approached by an Australian player, who pleaded with him to get out, stating that they would otherwise have to call for wheelchairs.
A regular feature in his batting is the bottom-hand grip, prominent in all his shots, which is a far cry from the batting manual. It all started with an unconventional approach during his childhood.
Never batted in gully cricket
Perhaps it has something to do with what his father forced him to do as a kid: not play with the tennis ball, at all. He believed that it had a different bounce from an actual cricket ball, which could hamper his technique. So, while other budding cricketers learned the crude version of their trade using the green, bouncy balls on the streets, Pujara, due to clear directives from his father, was forced to just keep wickets in gully games.
Never celebrated Holi, Diwali
If you thought that was all, young Pujara never got a chance to celebrate any festivals as well. Holi and Diwali, two very popular festivals in India, were just witnessed by him: there was no flinging of colours, or bursting of crackers, for his father feared he could injure his eyes or damage his hands.
Wife discusses cricket with him
His wife, Puja, has been a pillar of strength for him ever since the two got together. She has continued from where his father left off, making sure that he remains disciplined. When she initially met him, she had no idea that he was an international Test player, although his future mother-in-law knew about his cricketing exploits.
Now, she stays completely absorbed in his game, even reprimanding him after a stroke by saying: “Who gets out to an off-spinner like that?!”
Was mugged once in the West Indies
Pujara’s overprotective father would have had the scare of his life when he found out that his beloved son was once mugged in the West Indies! Part of the A team, Pujara headed out for a late dinner with the physio. On the way back, he was approached by someone from behind, who suddenly started pulling at him.
Taken aback by the sudden attack, Pujara didn’t know how to react. He tried pushing him away, but realised it was futile because the assailant was huge. Fortunately for him, an approaching bus scared the miscreant, who fled before doing any damage to the future India star.