Pujara was 8 off 61 when Ravi Shastri decided he had seen enough. He said, 'Stop riding a Luna and...': Ex-India coach
Former India fielding coach R Sridhar has narrated an incident when Cheteshwar Pujara's overcautious approach once played with the patience of Ravi Shastri so much that he was forced to send out a message for India's No. 3 in Tests.
Cheteshwar Pujara's batting in a chip off the old block, and while it has given India the desired results in the past, it has also tested a lot of patience. Over the last couple of years, Pujara has started scoring at a steady pace but there was a time when all he would do is grind, grind and grind, an approach that did not really excite fans much, but it brought him and India success. When India registered their maiden Test series win in Australia, Pujara was the star of their campaign, scoring 521 runs at an average of 41.41 including three centuries. Pujara did what he did best as he frustrated the Aussies and burned their attack to the ground.
However, Pujara's tendency to go into a shell in his early days was on occasions, frowned upon. Former India fielding coach R Sridhar has narrated an incident when Pujara's overcautious approach once played with the patience of Ravi Shastri so much that he was forced to send out a message for India's No. 3 in Tests.
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"Virat and Ravi wanted Pujara to score faster and the reason was because they were sure he had the skill set to do it. It was a question of convincing him that he could do so at international level. If he needed bollocking occasionally, Ravi was happy to oblige, like in Visakhapatnam in October 2019," Sridhar wrote in his book 'Coaching Beyond'.
The match Sridhar is recalling here is the 1st Test between India and South Africa in October of that year, the game where Rohit Sharma opened in Tests for the first time. India had piled a brilliant 502/7 declared in the first innings, after which South Africa had conceded a lead of 71 runs. In the second innings, as India looked to swell their lead over South Africa, this happened.
"We were looking for quick runs in the second innings so that we could stick South Africa back in. Rohit Sharma, who had got a 100 in the first innings, was again flowing, but Pujara got stuck. At one stage he was 8 off 61 deliveries when Ravi decided he had seen enough. So he called one of the substitute fielder and instructed him to repeat his message to Pujara verbatim, 'Stop riding a Luna and get on a Harley-Davidson'. There was a passage of play just after that where Pujara actually outscored Rohit. He had the capacity; it was important to ensure his thoughts were always aligned to that of the team and to make him realise that he had the tools to do so," added Sridhar.
As it turned out, Shastri's doze did the trick. From 8 off 61 balls, Pujara went on to score 75 off the next 87 balls finishing with 81 off 148 balls. He and Rohit added 190 runs for the second wicket as India declared on 323/4 and eventually sealed the match by 203 runs.