Cheteshwar Pujara sat smiling in the India Blue dugout. After slogging it out for three days (two days of match and one in practice), he deserved to relax. After all, he had scored 166 to ensure India Blue batted for nearly two days, scored a mammoth 707 to take the upper hand for a likely entry to the Duleep Trophy final.
After Mayank Agarwal (161) and Pujara, Sheldon Jackson (105) too scored a century to add to India Green’s misery.
“We had decided to out-bat the opposition as they had zero points and we had one,” said India Blue coach Ashish Kapoor.
Before the match, there were expectations from Pujara as his form here could decide the future in the Test team. Pujara never lost focus and played a flawless innings to pass the test.
He kept it simple on Monday and the knock against India Green should impress the selectors before the New Zealand series. If strike rate was a parameter on which he lost his place after the second Test in West Indies, Pujara scored at 59.28.
A thinker, Pujara was able to execute his plans against India Green. During practice a day before, he made sure he followed a pattern in the nets. When he came to bat a few minutes before the dinner break on Day One, his approach showed Pujara was back to his old self.
Once he settled down, Pujara began playing as if he was preparing for the New Zealand tour. “I worked out that the Kiwis have really good spinners and pacers who can bowl reverse swing. I made sure I batted in the same way,” said Pujara.
After the poor Australia tour of 2015, Pujara has been in and out of the team. With a long home Test season waiting, Pujara had to prove his worth. Against the India Green spinners, his defence wasn’t shaky and neither was he committing early with his footwork.
Against the pacers, Pujara covered the line and never hung his bat or try and go far from his body.
“I am preparing myself to bat at any position as well for India. Although I have scored a lot of runs at No 3, if the team needs I can bat at any position during the New Zealand series,” said Pujara.
Last year, on dust bowls against South Africa, Pujara showed he could handle vicious turn and bounce. Before that, his century against Sri Lanka in the final Test at Colombo was an example of his ability to churn out important innings under pressure.
In 2013, he played a brilliant knock against Australia in Delhi on a pitch which had crumbled towards the later part of the Test.
Having endured a tough time in the West Indies, the 161-run knock is a great start for Pujara.
Brief Scores: India Blue 707 (Mayank Agarwal 161, Gautam Gambhir 90, Cheteshwar Pujara 166, Sheldon Jackson 105) vs India Green