Positive intent does a world of good to Pujara and Gambhir
Resuming on 18 for no loss, India needed to quickly set New Zealand a stiff target while allowing their bowlers plenty of time to bowl out the opposition. The need was to be aggressive and score quick runs. And an unlikely candidate stepped up to the plate and delivered.cricket Updated: Oct 12, 2016 09:22 IST
Resuming on 18 for no loss, India needed to quickly set New Zealand a stiff target while allowing their bowlers plenty of time to bowl out the opposition. The need was to be aggressive and score quick runs. And an unlikely candidate stepped up to the plate and delivered.
Cheteshwar Pujara scored an unbeaten 101 in 148 balls to complete his first century of the series after three fifty-plus scores. The 28-year-old, who was dropped for the third Test during India’s tour of West Indies, has long been criticised for his low strike-rate. In the aggressive setup of the Virat Kohli-led team, it is a non-negotiable clause.
Pujara had earned back his place in the side for the New Zealand series after a superb performance in the Duleep Trophy. Captain Kohli admitted ahead of the series that the team management had had a word with Pujara. The Saurashtra batsman said that he was spoken to about a positive intent towards his batting.
He had strong scores against New Zealand in the first two Tests, but could not quite make the cut and reach the triple-figure mark. On Tuesday, he delivered in a situation where naysayers had said he would falter. There was a need for stability while also maintaining a steady flow of runs.
Pujara delivered on both counts. He smashed nine boundaries, but was never tempted to take the aerial route. He forged three crucial partnerships through the innings and remained unbeaten while doing so.
Another batsman needing a good knock was Gautam Gambhir, who was making his comeback to the Test side after two years. Gambhir scored a well-paced 50 coming at nearly a run a ball. The knock deserves due credit considering the pressure and circumstances under which Gambhir went about scoring them.
Gambhir, 34, made it to the team riding on a great domestic run and some luck. He was picked in the squad after opener KL Rahul suffered a hamstring injury ahead of the first Test. He was taken into the eleven, after Shikhar Dhawan injured his thumb while batting in the second game.
Impressing the team management and the selectors was crucial. He showed great intent in the first innings at Indore, giving India a positive start. He however failed to make the most of it and was dismissed for 29.
Gambhir injured himself on Day Three as India came in to bat for their second essay. Fortunately, the injury was not serious and Gambhir came out to bat in the morning on Day Four after Vijay went back to the hut. Gambhir remained calm and showed positive intent, despite knowing it was his last chance to impress.
The duo managed to impress with their individual brilliance; their effort seeing India stretch the overall lead to 475. The keyword for both batsmen on the day was ‘positive intent’. It held more meaning for the two than any other batsman on the field. While it seems to have helped Pujara cement his place as India’s No 3 bat, it looks to have kept Gambhir in the reckoning when the selectors meet to pick the squad for the England series next month.