Wriddhiman Saha said the 2001 Eden Gardens Test against Australia, where VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid batted an entire day, was on the back of the mind while playing out two wicketless sessions with Cheteshwar Pujara on Sunday. (Day 4 Highlights)
“Yes we thought of it. The way Pujara was batting it never seemed we would lose a wicket. We did well in Irani Trophy posting a 316-run unbroken partnership in the second innings (in their six-wicket win for Rest of India over Gujarat in the final in Mumbai last month). That too was playing on our mind,” said Saha after the fourth day of the third Test. (Scorecard)
“We knew we could do well if we back ourselves. We tried to do that and look for loose balls and run well between wickets.”
Cheteshwar Pujara went on to score his third career double century, helping India reach 603/9 in the first innings. Things were not looking good for India when they came out to bat Sunday morning, still needing 91 runs to level Australia’s first innings score. Saha knew with Pujara at the other end, they would come out on top.
“Puji (Pujara) has so much patience. He scores 200-300 in domestic cricket almost routinely. He is always on top of his game. He showed great patience here. He was losing partners at the other end, and we were not getting big partnerships. He curtailed his shots, trying to build big partnerships,” said Saha.
The idea was simple. “Pujara told me to break it up and think of small partnerships of 10-20 runs each. I backed my strength and showed respect to good balls,” said Saha.
Few words were exchanged with Josh Hazlewood but Saha said Pujara came up to tell him to focus on the task at hand. “Little banter always happens. But Pujara was telling me ‘look at the scoreboard’. He was on 180-odd then. They said something to me as we as well, I just said ‘go back and bowl.’ Nothing more than that,” said Saha.
Pujara’s role through the 199-run partnership was evident and even Australia coach Darren Lehmann lauded him. “He is obviously a disciplined player and class player. He bats long periods of time and his conversion rate from 50 to 100 and 150 is very high. So when he gets his eye in he likes to bat long and that is a challenge for our bowling group to get him early,” he said.
Asked about their plans, Lehmann said, “Obviously, we’ll have to save this game. It was tough to lose those two wickets but it’s a good challenge for the group. Once the ball gets a little bit softer it plays pretty well, so there’re no real demons in the track. It’s a case of us applying ourselves much like Pujara and Saha.”