Cheteshwar Pujara did a star turn once again, playing a captain’s innings to help India ‘A’ beat West Indies ‘A’ by two wickets for a 1-0 lead in the first of the three ‘Tests’ at Barbados yesterday.
The 323-minute knock of 96 not out may have made 24-year-old Pujara the hero of the match, but a year ago, his career was in jeopardy after a ligament tear on his right knee. He suffered the injury during Indian Premier League-IV and was ruled out for six months.
Pujara’s father Arvind revealed from Rajkot yesterday that his son’s devotion to God has helped him ride the storm. “Of course, he was upset to miss out on the action. It was a terrible phase for him. But Chintu (Cheteshwar’s nickname) has been religious since childhood and this devotion helps in bad times.
“It also helps you balance your mind. Being religious helped him overcome the injury setback,” Pujara Sr told MiD DAY yesterday.
He credits his late wife, Rinaben for instilling devotional values in their son at a young age. “It is all because of his mother… a man cannot do all this. He is back playing cricket because of her,” said the doting father, who is also his coach. “I may have taught him the game, but his mother has provided him the values of life. She deserves a lot of credit for Chintu’s success.”
Pujara made a comeback on November 29 last year during the Saurashtra vs Karnataka Ranji Trophy match, but has not been in the thick of the action. He played only four Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare matches, and one Duleep and Deodhar Trophy game each. He was on the sidelines for most of the IPL-V, playing only three matches for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
He scored a half century in the India ‘A’ first innings, but Rohit Sharma (94) stole the show. Tuesday’s knock was indeed noteworthy. “It was definitely a good innings. For Chintu, it was one of his best knocks. He found the conditions extremely challenging. He said the wicket was deteriorating and the West Indies bowling was very accurate. He was determined not to throw his wicket away,” said Pujara Sr.
An apt reward for his brilliant knock may result in a Test recall (Pujara played one Test against Australia at home in 2010 and two against SA). Probably, a bat contract too. For, his bat has a bare look.