No. 3 batsman Cheteshwar Pujara scores patient 123 under pressure and helps India reach 250-9 after being in dire straits at 86-5 against Australia in Adelaide
Cheteshwar Pujara en route his 123 against Australia yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
In many ways, Cheteshwar Pujara is the odd man in the current Indian line-up. He is soft spoken, doesn’t feature in the IPL, doesn’t fetch wealthy endorsements, not a fitness fanatic and does not like being seen often on social media. But he can bat for a long periods of time. He loves to absorb the pressure, frustrate opponents by constantly presenting a dead bat and then accumulate runs as the bowlers tire.”
Yesterday in Adelaide where late Australian legend Sir Don Bradman lived till 92, Pujara used all these attributes to score a brilliant 123 and in the process drive India to a score of 250-9. To many who have watched Pujara growing up as a teenager, this has been his formula to success and despite the current team management preferring to adopt a more robust approach, he has stuck to his strengths.
For the first two sessions here it seemed even Pujara wasn’t aware from where his next runs would come from. At lunch, he was on 11 off 62 balls. At tea — 46 off 141 balls. In the final session, he changed his tempo as he plundered 77 from 105 balls, that too having to farm the strike as India lost wickets late in the day. This was Pujara’s way of being aggressive and he provided a lesson on how to bat against a quality bowling unit on a pitch that offered plenty of assistance.
In recent times Pujara has shown the inclination to bat astutely with the lower order. At Southampton, earlier this year, he rallied with the tail to score a scintillating hundred. It was similar yesterday, as he brought out the shots that he had shelved for a long a time. The Indian No. 3 raced through the nineties, as he pulled and hooked Josh Hazelwood with impunity and angst.
This was a player at the top of his game, this was a player that had been dropped from the Indian team because he couldn’t rotate the strike, he couldn’t take on the short ball and his record outside Asia still left a lot to be desired. But Pujara continues to defy the odds, he continues to have faith in his game and trusts his strengths. Pujara is an old-school cricketer, one who is often overshadowed by his teammates, but as he proved in Adelaide yesterday, he is still the backbone of the Indian batting.