If Cheteshwar Pujara’s overseas record is overlooked for a moment, his statistics at home make for a great read. Before the Ranchi Test, Pujara averaged over 65 at home with eight centuries. Three of those came in the series against New Zealand and England before Australia landed in February. He fell eight short of a century on a ‘less than average’ pitch in Bangalore after notching 83 and 54 not out in the one-off Test against Bangladesh. (India vs Australia, day 3 match report)
Very much at home
It underlines Pujara’s ability to adapt to any condition in India while some of his teammates still find it hard at times. Weaned on some of the flattest pitches in and around Rajkot, Pujara prefers to take his time to dig in. And if he is allowed to do that, opponents have found it nearly impossible to dislodge him. Australia too learnt that lesson as Pujara spent 54.4 overs mending India’s breaches with a tight and unbeaten 130. (India vs Australia, day 3 scorecard)
The hallmark of innings like these from Pujara is that the offensive comes only after a long-drawn period of defence. Playing close to the body against both pacers and spinners earlier on, Pujara mostly relied on the glance or ran the ball down through slip or gully to score. Only later did he open up, unleashing drives through covers and the on-side.
Interesting, however, was Pujara’s smooth acceleration, having taken 155 balls to complete his first fifty. He went after Pat Cummins to pick three boundaries to set the ball rolling for an innings of substance. By the end of the day, he had milked Cummins, easily Australia’s best bowler of the day, for 35 runs off 50 deliveries.
Soaking in pressure
It was in stark contrast to the other India batsmen’s numbers against Cummins. KL Rahul scored 17 off 37 balls, Murali Vijay one off 19 balls, Ajinkya Rahane three off 13, R Ashwin three off 20. Virat Kohli was cleaned up first ball from Cummins.
It is this grit to take on the best that makes Pujara the man to watch out for when the chips are down for India. Vijay couldn’t agree more. “Pujara is a guy who has the game for it, because he takes a lot of pressure and his game is such that you can depend on him and play your natural game,” he said.
With one more Test left for a long home season to end, Pujara has already stacked up an enviable record. Including the Ranchi innings, he has scored 1187 runs with four centuries in 12 Tests, averaging nearly 66. Given his current form, these numbers will surely be better by the time India are done with Australia in Dharamsala.