Why Cheteshwar Pujara is the foremost reason India won its maiden test series in Australia
Apart from KL Rahul and Murli Vijay, there haven't been a lot of Indian players who have fallen into the brackets of criticism, post the Border-Gavaskar series, as each and every player did the needful to help India script history, clinching its first-ever Test series victory against Australia in their own backyard under the leadership of Virat Kohli.
However, there is no denying the fact that Cheteshwar Pujara has been the foremost reason for India's dominance down under.
Going into the series, while for the first time in all their previous tours to Australia, India was more confident of their bowling unit rather than their batting. Apart from skipper Kohli, all his allies had been struggling to make a lasting impact in the last one year in overseas Tests.
It was high time when India needed someone to step up, and thus, they recalled their experienced campaigners such as Murli Vijay, Rohit Sharma into the mix to add the required experience along with young talents to their line up.
Ahead of the test series, while talks were surrounded around young Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, it was the dependable Pujara who plundered Australia's destructive bowling attack, scoring three centuries in seven innings in the series.
Perhaps, Pujara's run was even more crucial knowing the fact that he was batting at number three and the opening pair was failing miserably. India started the series in the worst fashion having lost five quick wickets for just 86 runs in the first innings in Adelaide.
However, it was Pujara's superb innings of 123 runs off 246 deliveries which took the total to 250 run mark, giving the bowlers some confidence to get back into the match. The century eventually helped India win the test match and go 1-0 up in the series.
Knowing that Australia won the second test, and the final Test resulted in a draw with rain playing the spoilsport, 2-1 could have been in Australia's favor had Pujara not set the foundation right from the first Test.
Having said that nothing has been taken away from the Indian quicks but there still have to be some runs on the board to instill the confidence in the bowlers to come all guns firing. Right?
In the third Test, India once again rode on Pujara's brilliance in the first innings who hit another century (106), combined with Kohli's 83 and Rohit's 63 to put up a mammoth 443-7 on the board, leaving the Aussies in complete disarray. India went on to win the test by 137 runs in Melbourne, leading the series 2-1 with one game left to play.
It was not the end for the Rajkot's batsman there, as what followed was another stellar innings from Pujara who notched up 193 runs in the final Test, making the Aussie bowlers plead for his wicket until Nathan Lyon got him with just seven runs short of a double hundred. Albeit rain denied India from the winning the Test, they finished the series with a 2-1 victory on Monday.
It was perhaps, not only the number of runs but also the amount of time he spent at the crease which actually lists him as world's one the best Test players in the world right now. Pujara standing at the crease for 1867 minutes allowed the middle-order to face a tired and fragile attack in the middle on almost all the occasions. Perhaps, the team management isn't going to think of dropping Pujara anytime soon from the Test cricket.