Ian Chappell: Cheteshwar Pujara is so much like Rahul Dravid

Updated: 09 December, 2018 14:11 IST | Ian Chappell | Adelaide

Pujara has scored tons on England and Australian soil in tough circumstances and that's a sign of a maturing, reliable performer across all conditions

India's Cheteshwar Pujara plays a shot against Australia on Day One of the first Test in Adelaide. Pic/PTI
India's Cheteshwar Pujara plays a shot against Australia on Day One of the first Test in Adelaide. Pic/PTI

There are two choices when selecting the type of number three batsman for a top-ranked Test side. There's the instinctive counter-attacker who, despite his aggressive nature, still has the technical expertise to withstand a good spell with the new ball. The perfect example is Australia's former batting champion Ricky Ponting. If that type of player isn't available then you need someone with the patience of a fly fisherman, a brick wall defence and the unselfish outlook that allows him to bury his ego in order to improve the chances of success for his fellow batsmen. The prototype for this type of number three is The Wall himself, India's Rahul Dravid.Cheteshwar Pujara isn't quite the snug fitting Armani suit that was Dravid at number three but he's cut from the same cloth.

Lesson for teammates
He showed at Adelaide Oval the value of patience and persistence and a strong mindset. While these qualities helped him blunt the Australian attack they should also be a lesson to his more adventurous teammates. Between his dogged defiance and their desire-to-be-dominant style of batting there is an acceptable middle ground. If India was hoping Pujara's patient accumulation would blunt the Australian pace bowlers so that the plentiful stroke makers around him could dominate, the ploy failed. However without Pujara's invaluable contribution India's total could easily have led to a first Test capitulation and the possibility of a team hat-trick.

While a hat-trick is usually a great accomplishment in cricket, on this occasion it would have referred to away Test series losses in South Africa, England and Australia. Instead, Pujara's major contribution and the skill of Ravichandran Ashwin has India in with a chance to win in Adelaide. Such a confidence boosting victory would be a reminder of India's 2003-04 achievement at the same venue when The Wall excelled in scoring a double century and a defiant 72 not out to ambush Australia.

Super learner Ashwin
On his third tour of Australia Ashwin has learned a lot from his previous visits. He has shelved some of the variations that bedevilled him on the 2011-12 tour, causing him to leak runs like a rusty sieve. His variations are now of the subtle variety, allowing him to maintain control whilst still being on the attack. In an attritional Test match this was a luxury that allowed Virat Kohli to control Australia's scoring rate. Ashwin also enhanced his reputation for being a lefty killer and he must have been delighted that Australia provided him with so many potential victims. Nevertheless, Ashwin's considerable contribution would have been wasted without the magnitude of Pujara's innings.

Credit to Aus pacers
The Australian bowlers performed with skill and wisdom as they tempted India's stroke makers with full deliveries that turned out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing. Sure there were some extravagant shots from the Indian batsmen but credit the Australian pacemen for having the courage to lead them into temptation. Australia should be grateful to former fast bowler Craig McDermott, who changed the mind-set of their pacemen. When McDermott took over as the bowling coach he inherited a group who loved to bang it in short of a length and test the opponents' patience.

McDermott's mantra
McDermott reset the mentality to one of testing the opposing batsmen's nerve by tempting them with full deliveries. Fortunately McDermott's invitation to drive mantra has been passed on to the current generation. However Pujara was not tempted early and he resisted any urge to attack until he was left with the lower order and little choice. The fact that this year Pujara has scored centuries in both England and Australia in demanding circumstances is a sign that he's maturing into a reliable performer in all conditions. There's no doubt that Pujara is the ideal number three for this team of impetuous Indian batsmen. He's the cruise control on a high-speed Ferrari and the rest of the batsmen need to heed his warning when danger looms.

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First Published: 09 December, 2018 08:50 IST

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