He might be 28 but repeated surgeries have left Cheteshwar Pujara with an old man’s knees. Pair him with an athlete like Virat Kohli and there are bound to be mix-ups one normally gets to see in amateur cricket.
Too slow at times — Pujara was quickly given tags difficult to shed in international cricket. And then there was the public discussion on Kohli asking Pujara to improve his strike rate during the Caribbean tour three months back.
Far from getting bogged down, Pujara took everything in his stride to produce one the most fluent centuries — third in as many Tests — of his career here on Thursday. Kohli was the first to pat him on his back.
While the century once again proved how hasty conclusions are unwarranted, it would be important Pujara retains the instincts that make him a necessity in this team. He can never be as agile as some of his teammates but the resolve Pujara brings to the table is unique.
England got a taste of that for the second time in this series. This was a pitch where Pujara couldn’t risk a false shot. Almost impeccable at leaning forward to defend the ball, Pujara took his time to settle down before picking on the spinners one by one.
Pujara was severe on Stuart Broad with three boundaries — a flick off his legs, a drive through mid-off before a cut that pierced an 8-1 field perfectly — but his treatment of spinners was the highlight. It’s almost inconceivable that Pujara has two sixes to his name while his captain would hit none, but that happened too on Thursday.
With scores of 62, 78, 87, 4, 41, 101, 124, 18 and 119 since the Caribbean tour where he was dropped for the third Test, Pujara looks a different batsman. But he insists he did not tweak his technique to bring about this change.
“It’s just the intent. I spoke to Anil (Kumble) bhai after the West Indies series and even during the New Zealand series. What he told me is that there was nothing wrong the way I was batting, and probably the area I can improve on is the intent. That’s what I worked on,” said Pujara after close of play on the first day.
He was hesitant initially but the fact that 54 out of his innings of 119 came through running is proof that Pujara is not averse to the more tiring form of scoring. “I think we didn’t judge the singles well, especially in the first session. But at lunch, we had a chat on how we wanted to go in the next session. If you look at the time between lunch and tea, we didn’t miss many singles,” he said.
To bring up the century with a six though indicated how much Pujara was in control. “Yes, completing the 100 with a six was special to me. Starting well in the series meant a lot, and scoring a 100 at home (Rajkot) was special to me. So I just wanted to continue my form. On a Day 1 pitch, I just wanted to capitalise,” he said.