It isn't for nothing that technique is stressed upon in world cricket. Supposed to be an epitome of technique, Cheteshwar Pujara failed to live up to this epithet during the tours of New Zealand, England, and now in Australia. Perhaps, the moving ball was a novelty for him in English conditions and that's why he stayed back to sort it out with a stint in Derbyshire.
Virat Kohli too had failed against the moving delivery, but in Australia he amended his game considerably, while Pujara seems to have carried his England uncertainty here.
What is baffling is how Pujara, who had an extremely successful tour of South Africa at the end of 2013, is still not able to cope with these conditions.
Kohli, in contrast, arrived in Australia with a clear plan to unsettle the bowlers' length. He stood well outside the crease in the nets and took a middle-stump guard to take the fourth stump and top of off-stump attack out of the equation. This allowed him to play on the rise and prepared him for extra pace and bounce.
"In international cricket, most bowlers bowl a fourth-stump line and on a good length spot. I am confident that I am not worried about their pace and bounce. I can stand in front of the crease and try not to let the bowler bowl too much in the same spot because that's called the good length spot. If you disrupt that then the bowler has to think about other things, which is what you want as a batsman," said Kohli when asked about the change.
"The good length spot is on the fourth stump, just back of length, so it's mostly to cover that. If you drive a few on the rise and the bowler doesn't know what length to bowl, as a batsman you want that. It's worked for me till now and I am feeling good," reiterated Kohli on how getting closer to the pitch of the ball has helped him cover the line.
Yet, he continues to employ horizontal bat shots - the cut and pull - effectively.But Pujara's footwork hasn't changed much. He still continues to stand inside the crease with his crouching stance. While Kohli has a dead upright stance that helps him cover ground to ride on the bounce, Pujara takes that extra bit of time to do that. In doing so, he has been hit on his helmet grille twice, out of which he was given out wrongly once.
Unlike Virat, who is fully forward in defence, Pujara has been half-forward. So, he is never in a position to cover the swing of the ball effectively. It also makes things difficult for him against Nathan Lyon's off-spin. This is where indecisiveness comes into play.
Cramping himself, he plays the cut close to his body without moving deep inside the crease and recovering from a leaning stance. As a result, he is nicking anything that is on the fifth and sixth stump.
Kohli employs a back-and-back trigger movement which offers him greater balance to go forward or rock back, while Pujara's small forward trigger movement along with his crouching stance doesn't help him to go fully forward or back.
The only advantage with Pujara's stance is that he has soft hands and doesn't jab at the ball which considerably brings down the chance of the ball flying into the slip cordon. At a time when his confidence is low, even this habit is deserting him.
Also, the bounce of the pitch is not suitable for his soft-hand approach. It's been a year since Pujara scored a century and with just two half-centuries thrown in between, the onus is clearly on him to adapt.