India's Emerging Player of the Year: Cheteshwar Pujara
The doomsday clock failed to strike earlier this week, but there’s an apocalyptic tension rising in the heated rooms of the BCCI as a surge of negative media criticism constantly harangues them after the failure of the Indian cricket team this year. Never before has the death knell sounded so loud to the ears of officials and cricketers alike. The year 2012 has been a difficult one for Team India, there is no denying that. But it is rather pathetic to witness our captain come up with pitiful excuses instead of working on overcoming this crisis. Then again, it is in our genes to sit back and wait for good things to happen while the bad things tarnish our reputation bit-by-bit.
If we take statistics into account, India hasn’t had as tremendously terrible a year as we’d like to, rather hate to, believe. Their performances in the coloured attire, while not exemplary, have been acceptable, but the less said about their Test match performances, the better. So why have we come to this? Why have we begun earnestly shouting for Dhoni’s head and pleading for Tendulkar’s retirement? Between the numbers and data lies a horrid picture of India’s hands tied to a chair with no proof of a struggle. Often the team got slammed head first to the floor without much of a fight, almost as if they offered their hands to be tied.
India’s bowling has always been a mighty cause for concern. With no sign of any kind of improvement in that area of expertise, the result of an India match often came down to how well the team batted. All it took was a single performance to guide the team through the doors of victory. But with the retirement of match winners like Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and now, Sachin Tendulkar, these doors seem far too heavy for our young Indian team. The total batting average of the Indian Test side in 9 Test matches played this year is 30, a number which has been on the decline since their blighted travails to Australia and England, two tours which may divide Indian history into ‘before’ and ‘after’ periods. Such has been their cumulative effect on the Indian Cricket team.
Among the burning fires though, were a few survivors hanging on and giving hope to the future generations of fans. Indeed, voids left by Dravid and Laxman were abnormally large to cover up, but there have been a few who have volunteered to mask these holes and assemble themselves as adequate substitutes.
Virat Kohli has lit up our homes with his swashbuckling approach to the game, along with his boyish charm and wry candor. However, the pick for emerging player of the year goes to Cheteshwar Pujara for quietly stepping onto the cricket field and taking various bowlers from around the world to task.
Pujara’s batting is like art. He’s often decimating his opposition, but he does this so calculatedly, so under-handedly, and so gently, that the opposition doesn’t realise he’s got himself a century. He has been doing this for years at the domestic level, but got his real opportunity, without being hampered by injuries, only this year.
In the sorry series against England last month, Pujara’s ability with the bat was a delight to our ridiculously sore eyes. While the Indian batsmen fell like nine-pins (a habit now, a common sight), Pujara stood tall and toiled on for days. Stalwarts of the game like Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dhoni, etc couldn’t manage to wrestle and wrangle their way through the English bowlers, but the inexperienced Pujara kept a quiet head and helped India avoid a higher degree of embarrassment.
Rahul Dravid is a big name in Indian cricket. The respect the name commands is comparable only with Sachin Tendulkar. Pujara is a name often thrown into the mix when one talks about the ‘next Dravid’. But Pujara may create a niche for himself, proclaiming his own title and standing on top of his own shoulders. Let’s give him this opportunity to make his own way through international cricket and carve a statue of his own, one that could withstand the most torrid of weathers for many years to come.