The curious case of Cheteshwar Pujara
Introduction to Test cricket:
In the year 2010, India were battling Australia in a 2 match Test series in the Border Gavaskar Trophy. In the second Test at Bangalore, India were set a target of 207 runs to win the match and the series.
Having lost the wicket of Sehwag at the score of 17, in walked a young debutant from Rajkot to face the hostile Australian bowling. Having scored just 4 runs in the first innings batting at number 6, Pujara was a surprise choice to bat at number 3 in India's second innings. However the right handed batsman did not disappoint. He repaid the faith shown by his skipper and played a match winning innings of 72 runs on a tricky pitch and ensured that India won the Test and the series.
A knee injury forced him out of the 2011 season. However he made a strong comeback to the Indian Test team with a century against the visiting New Zealand team in 2012.
England were on the receiving end when they toured India in the year 2012. Though India lost the series against England, Pujara was one of the few bright spots for India in the series. A double century in the first Test at Ahmedabad was followed by a century in the second Test at Mumbai. While the other batsmen struggled to cope up with the English bowlers, Pujara looked at ease every time he went out to bat.
The successful English series at home was followed by another successful series against Australia at home in 2013 when he scored 419 runs in 7 innings at an impressive average of 83.60 with a century and two half centuries to his credit. Another century at Mumbai followed against a hapless West Indies bowling attack and Pujara was making the number 3 spot his own.
Having established himself as a solid number 3 batsman in home conditions,the real Test for Pujara lied in the 2013-2014 season when India had various tours outside the sub-continent.
A tour to South Africa is always difficult considering the wickets and the fast bowlers. The youngster bating at number 3 scored 280 runs in 4 innings in South Africa including a brilliant 153 at Johannesburg while facing the likes of Steyn, Philander, Morkel and Kallis. Pujara was in the form of his life and was ready for the challenge of playing New Zealand, England and Australia away from home.