Cheteshwar Pujara takes body blows to lead India to win in Brisbane
Thank goodness for helmets in the modern game. Cheteshwar Pujara wouldn’t have been on the field to celebrate India’s historic win if it wasn't for his protective gear. Instead, he would have been in the hospital for serious treatment. As he held up a fortress under siege on the final day of the Gabba Test, the Australian bowling attack unleashed an absolute barrage of short balls aimed at his body. It was reminiscent of Michael Holding hammering away at Brian Close during the West Indies tour of England in 1976, immortalized in the documentary Fire in Babylon.
Like Close, Pujara will end the day with bruises all over his body--symbols of the nearly immoveable resilience he offered in the face of fiery Aussie fast bowling desperate for a win.
He took hits to the head, the elbows, the hands, and ribs. At least ten balls thudded into him through his 211-ball innings. One snorter from Josh Hazlewood whiplashed through his body like a knockout punch from a heavyweight boxer, and sent his helmet visor flying. When he was on 26, he almost had a finger broken by Cummins; it was the one-hit that felled him and needed immediate medical attention, but he grimaced and carried on.
It was what was needed to negate the world's No 1 bowler from scything through the Indian batting line up. It was also Pujara's slowest 50. On 56, he finally succumbed to a ball that nipped sharply back at him and trapped him in front of the wicket. Cummins had finally got his man, but it was too late.
In the middle, Pujara entirely eschewed the pull shot. Balls he could not duck or sway away from, he simply allowed those to hit him on the helmet. Perhaps he remembered his mistimed hook from outside the off-stump against New Zealand in the Christchurch Test last year; India lost their advantage in that Test after his fall and went on to lose it and the series.
“In my entire career, I wouldn't have played that shot. I don’t know why I played it. It was just a reaction. Usually, I don’t pull the ball from that wide of the off-stump,” he had said in an earlier interview. “It’s the biggest regret I have.”
He has made up for the regret at Brisbane. He has the marks to show for it. And, the Indian dressing room no longer questions his batting speed. “Credit to Pujara the way he batted. The way he handled the pressure, it was magnificent,” captain Ajinkya Rahane said in the post-match presentation.
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- Vaughan, who had been on a trolling spree ever since the third India-England Test match ended in two days with the hosts taking a 2-1 lead, lauded India and said Virat Kohli’s men ‘out skilled and out thought’ England, showing why they are good in these conditions.
- It was a bit of a surprise when England decided to play only three specialist bowlers in the fourth Test, picking batsman Dan Lawrence in place Jofra Archer who had played in the day-night Test but as it turned out Archer was forced to sit due to an injury.