What’s tougher to deal with? The debut match against one of the best teams in the world in front of a packed house or the knowledge that regardless of your showing in the game, you’d get only one chance, at least for the time being. Just to add to the pressure, you got a ball which has kept alarmingly low in the first innings and constantly reminds you of a letdown. You stand at the edge of the cliff, one wrong move, and it might just blow up all your dreams.
That’s how Cheteshwar Pujara must have felt when he walked on the field to take guard as India’s number three batsman on the last day of the second Test match. If there ever is what we call a ‘pressure cooker situation’ in cricket, this was certainly one of those.
Surely then, the way you embark upon such a situation would inevitably determine the shape your career takes. These situations separate men from boys, and the way Pujara responded, showed that he belonged to the place.
I have seen Pujara grow as a player from close quarters. He’s a batsman in the traditional mould who prefers grinding down the opposition with solid technique and immense patience.
Pujara’s consistent performances were rewarded with further selections till he faced the corporate world of the IPL. He was picked for KKR but was sent home, without getting a chance, halfway through the first season. That was when he realised the need to change, quite radically, with the times. No longer was it only about notching up the runs but about being flamboyant and flashy too.
That is when he must have walked the thin line of losing what he had in pursuit of what he should have. If you try to score quickly in the longer format, there’s a good possibility of sacrificing big runs and if that happens, you’re surely doomed. You may impress a franchise or two with your strike rate but its only big runs, which would impress the selectors.
But to his credit, he took it as a challenge and learned to switch gears. His strike rate improved appreciably while he continued to hit big scores for his side.
His List A stats were equally impressive as his first-class’, which led to him being made the skipper of the India A team touring England.
Pujara has not only led the team with success in the shorter format but also returned as the highest run scorer on a number of occassions.
While he’s made a good start to his international career, he is most likely to be reduced to being a tourist for some time.
Despite his success in the shorter format, Pujara’s unlikely to be picked for ODIs, which means that he will have no international exposure till someone else in the Test playing XI pulls a muscle or strains a hamstring.
That’s not at all encouraging, begging a question to be asked — If Pujara is good enough to lead India’s second best team and also scores more runs than everyone else, then why can’t he be considered for the shorter format of the game as well? for more visit www.cricketaakash.com