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IND vs AUS: Top of the class

Updated on: 03 March,2023 09:07 AM IST  |  Indore
Santosh Suri |

Cheteshwar Pujara was just that as his half-century stood out in an India innings that didn’t make for a good sight against Australia on Day Two at Indore

IND vs AUS: Top of the class

India’s Cheteshwar Pujara en route his 59 on Day Two of the 3rd Test against Australia yesterday. Pic/PTI

Cheteshwar Pujara is like an umbrella for the Indian team. He comes out when it rains—when the team are in trouble.

On a very dicey Holkar Stadium pitch, he was needed badly and he did not disappoint. If only the other famed Indian batsmen, be it Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli had taken a leaf out of his book, things could have been different and the home team could have had an outside chance to register a come-from-behind win.

Despite Pujara’s determined 59, it will require a miracle for India to win the game on the third day today. Pujara reckons, there is a chance. “Though 75 may not be too many, there’s a chance on this pitch,” he said about the state of the game.

The second Test at Delhi was Pujara’s 100th Test match and many had hoped he would make it memorable for himself. Though India won that match by an innings, the Rajkot-born batsman could manage only seven runs in his only innings. That disappointed him and his family who had come to the Kotla to celebrate the memorable occasion. The disappointment was writ large on the face of his father Arvind Pujara, a Saurashtra Ranji player and his mentor.

But the way Pujara batted resolutely on the second day of the third Test on Thursday on a turning track on which the other Indian batsmen had failed to get going, would have impressed not only his father but also the connoisseurs of the game. It was old-style batting which is becoming extinct in these times of slam-bang cricket. In times when both the fans and media are obsessed with scoring rates, Pujara is least bothered about impressing the spectators in the stands or the pundits of the game. He likes to score at his own pace and is never rattled by criticism in the media for his dour batting.

Waking up fans

Being mostly circumspect, in between, he did wake up the fans in the stands from a slumber when he stepped out and hit Nathan Lyon for a six over long-on to prove that if he chooses to, he can hit the ball into the stands, but willingly sacrifices such an option in the interest of the team. The way he was going, much more was expected from him but a brilliantly caught by Steve Smith at leg-slip ended his much-needed stay in the middle.   

Also read: Cheteshwar Pujara: My dream is to win WTC Final

Speaking after the day’s play, Pujara said: “It’s a tough pitch to bat on. It’s not easy. You need to trust your defence, make sure you get to the pitch or if it’s short, play off the back foot. You need a judicious mix of attack and defence on this pitch. If you keep defending, one ball will bounce and hit your glove and that’ll be the end of your innings.

Full of focus

“My aim was to be a bit more positive, try and score as many as possible. If there was a longer partnership with Axar [Patel] it could’ve helped. Anyhow, I’m learning a few more tricks. If there’s a demand [requirement] I feel rather than playing too many dot balls, if you can take a few more chances, you can get runs. Now I’m confident whenever it’s needed, I can play those shots.”

In 101 Test matches, Pujara has scored over 7,000 runs at an average of 44.10 with 19 centuries and 35 half-centuries, ensuring his name among the greats to have donned an India cap in Test cricket. 

In first-class cricket, he has over 18,500 runs at an average of 51.50 with 54 centuries and 75 half-centuries to be among the rare breed of cricketers who have made a name for themselves playing purely red-ball cricket.

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