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The significance of Cheteshwar Pujara

For the benefit of Indian Test cricket, Pujara has to be himself.

Pujara is an important player for the Indian Test team

Even in today’s fast-paced world of cricket, in which T20 cricket is preferred over Test cricket by the entertainment-seeking audience, no true cricketer would let Test cricket fade away. For any cricketer, the real test of his cricketing skills comes only in a Test match: there requires the same amount of technique, if not better than other forms of cricket, high stamina, calmness, concentration, patience, and most importantly, timely judgement.

A mistimed big shot in T20 cricket could as well go on for a six. But an error of judgement in Test cricket by the batsman or the bowler, or worse, the fielder, could cost a wicket for the team. The legendary Rahul Dravid, often referred to as ‘The Wall’ had often said that leaving a ball could be deemed a great shot in Test cricket.

15 years ago, on a windy September day at the Kennington Oval, fighting against a mammoth total posted by the English, Dravid stood like a mountain as he made his first double hundred overseas. He literally used his entire body as a defensive shield to deny England a victory in the decisive Test match.

Eight years later, Cheteshwar Pujara, who batted instead of Rahul Dravid against Australia in his debut Test at Bangalore in 2010, won the match for India. The Saurashtra batsman has done exactly the same on his way to a brilliant 202 in the third Test match of the 2017 Border-Gavaskar Trophy, thus denying Australia a foothold in the game His partnership with Wriddhiman Saha snatched away the match from the Australians and safely handed it to the Indian team.

The Indian scored an impressive double century against Australia

Out of the record 525 deliveries that he faced, 400 were dot balls. That in itself explains the tremendous amount of concentration and patience that Pujara exhibited in the crucial match. This innings of his is like a blow of the conch shell to reiterate the world number one ranking of India. Interestingly, just less than a year ago, he was dropped from the side due to average performances, only to come back strongly.

Pujara’s grit, readiness to bat for long hours, and take a blow or two on his body for the team, makes his role one of the most vital ones for the Indian Test team and time and again he has proven that he is exactly that package. A look into the statistics for his performance as a batsman in the recent test series (played under Virat Kohli as captain) will show that India’s No. 3 is a true team man.

Pujara's batting performance before being dropped

Team Played Against

 

Total Runs scored

Contribution to total score (%)

Average Strike Rate

Partnerships involved in

First Innings

Second Innings

>50

>100

>200

Sri Lanka

145

0

24.7

50

3

1

-

South Africa

52

136

13.5

49

3

-

-

West Indies

62

-

4.8

26.5

1

1

-


Pujara's batting performance after being dropped

Team Played Against

 

Total Runs scored

Contribution to total score (%)

Average Strike Rate

Partnerships involved in

First Innings

Second Innings

>50

>100

>200

New Zealand

190

183

18.2

52

2

3

-

England

341

60

12.4

45

2

1

2

Bangladesh

83

54

16.2

70

1

1

-

Australia

225

123

27.2

40

2

3

-

*till the Ranchi test, 20 March 2017

The total contribution to the team is a very healthy percentage except for the West Indies tour which led to Pujara being dropped for a Test match. His total contribution of 1259 runs out of a mammoth 7401 runs scored by team India saw his team-mates score four double hundreds, a 199 and a triple century. Pujara has been consistently getting good scores for the team, and if he can convert these scores into big ones with a good strike rate, the team cannot ask for more.

More important is the partnerships that he has had; the number of big partnerships that he had before and after being dropped shows a huge improvement. He is regularly involved in 50-run partnerships and is involved in a 100-run partnership at least once in every two matches.

He has had 100-run partnerships with Amit Mishra, KL Rahul, Ajinkhya Rahane, but his partnership with opening batsman, Murali Vijay, has been the most fruitful, with the duo involved in five out of ten century partnerships. He has also been involved in two 200-run partnerships, and a 199-run partnership with Saha during his marathon 202 vs Australia in Ranchi.

Filling in the shoes of Rahul Dravid is no easy task. The task is made tougher because of the criticism of being boring and not a pleasure to watch for the viewers. Pujara is not in contention to be picked into the ODI team which means that he will not play the cricket World Cup or might not be picked by any team in the Indian Premier League.

It might mean that immediately after a Test series, Pujara will be forgotten by the average fan. But Pujara should not alter his game to please his critics as he is the bedrock that helps the Indian batting lineup flourish. For the Indian team, and for Test cricket, Pujara being himself is important.

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