‘Bruised and battered’, Pujara stood tall — again
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) While almost all the Indian fans and pundits have been drooling over the exuberance and fearless brand of cricket displayed by the likes of Rishabh Pant and Shubman Gill in India’s historic win in the fourth and final Test in Brisbane, the contribution of the new ‘Wall’ — Cheteshwar Pujara.
During the Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Pujara faced a total of 928 balls — the fifth-most by a visiting batsman in Australia in four or fewer Tests. He scored a total of 271 runs at a strike rate of 33.88, with the help of 29 fours. Rahane was second in the list of those who faced most balls with 562 (268 runs) while Shubman Gill faced 427 and scored 259 runs. Pant, who emerged as India’s top scorer in the series, scored 274 off 392 deliveries.
During the 2018-19 series in Australia, Pujara had faced a total of 1,258 deliveries and had scored 521 runs at an average of 74.43 and a strike rate of 41.21 with the help of 50 fours and two sixes.
When India needed 324 runs to win on the final day of the fourth and final Test at the Gabba on January 19, Pujara — the second most senior batsman in the team — once again came out with a performance that somehow brought out the most telling trait of the Ajinkya Rahane-led side: resilience.
Pujara, during his 211-ball knock on Tuesday, took as many as 11 blows on his body from the Aussie quicks. However, out of these blows, only twice did he show that he was in pain. On the remaining occasions whenever he was hit on the helmet, hand, or the chest, he took a deep breath, paused to recollect his thoughts, had a look at the bowler, went back to the crease, took the guard, and moved on.
Pujara, who had faced a lot of criticism for his slow batting in the first two Tests of the series, however, never ever let the flak from former cricketers affect his mind. The Saurashtra batsman kept on batting the Pujara way — the old, textbook style of Test cricket wherein he kept on hanging out there and made sure that the batsman at the other end kept piling on runs.
While his partnership with Gill — who scored 91 in the second innings — set the platform for the win, his 61-run stand with Pant made sure Australia remained on the backfoot at ‘fortress’ Gabba.
Pujara scored his slowest Test fifty — coming off 196 balls, something which can again be criticised by many. However, it was not just the runs he scored that were of importance; it was the time he spent at the crease in tiring out the Aussie bowlers and that made the hosts’ attack, barring Pat Cummins, lose steam.
Pujara was like an insurance policy that made sure the young batsmen, like Gill and Pant, scored briskly. During his innings, the 33-year-old, was in a way, telling these young Indian batsmen what Test cricket is all about — putting price to your wicket, taking blows on your body, but not giving up. With his gutsy show Pujaratold the Pants and the Gills that they might have been gifted with the ability to play shots aggressively and at will, they would, at times, require to stay at the crease and make sure that the team not only survived but thrived, like it did in Brisbane.
“Without Cheteshwar Pujara, India would have lost 0-3 against Australia in the Test series. FACT! Don’t ever tell me batting balls for hours in Test match cricket isn’t of priority. The amount of rubbish I listen to and have listened to for how many years from reputable cricket people is just mind blowing,” said former England cricketer Nick Compton while emphasising the importance of Pujara in the Indian Test team.
While Australia might have been ‘Pantsed’, they still would be wondering how they would save themselves from getting ‘Pujarised’ when they face India next in a Test series.