Cheteshwara Pujara – the man is as simple as his name. Considering his calm and easy-going nature, he is an odd one out in Virat Kohli’s aggressive Test side, yet his No. 3 spot makes him one of the crucial members of the squad. Ravindra Jadeja has a ‘cool’ image of a royal man, who rides horses, possess swords and is fondly called Sir Jadeja, Indian skipper shows of numerous tattoos on his body, while Pujara has chosen a simple life.
He regularly prays, mediates and leads an unbelievable simple life being a part of the glamourous Indian cricket team. He does not always have the luxury of seeing his name on the top trend after a top notch performance, like his other teammates. The man has always been eluded of the limelight of an “Indian cricketer,” but he does not care. His approach to the game might bore you to death, but his patience and perseverance fulfil the purpose – he scores runs.
Pujara is arguably India’s most old-fashioned player at present and the current generation of Indian cricket fans, that is attracted to the T20 format, will more look forward to cricketers like Kohli, Jadeja and Murali Vijay. Pujara since his Under-19 days has stuck to his old plan of going after singles or doubles rather than boundaries. Cricket has changed in the past couple of years; while most of the current Test batsmen fancy big shots even in the whites, there still exists players like Pujara who concentrate on rotating the strike.
Pujara, who has already faced 7000-plus balls in just 46 Tests, aims to break the opposition’s bowling attack by defending the balls. The more he defends, during crunch situations, the bowlers get more frustrated. His fitness and stamina allow him to play for quite a lot of hours. He might not score at an excellent rate, but he will ensure India does not lose his wicket easily. He has not hit four consecutive double centuries in four Test series; he has not won India a Test single-handedly; he is yet to touch the triple century mark in Tests; however, there have been several occasions where he has been left as an unsung hero and eventually his contribution was slowly overshadowed.
Pujara was a part of the Indian Test team that defeated Australia by 75 runs to level the four-Test series 1-1 on Tuesday. In the first innings, he faced the second most number of balls after KL Rahul but was dismissed for just 17. In the second innings, Pujara showed how important it is to grab a second chance and make it count. Australian Captain Steven Smith dropped the Indian batsman when he was just about four runs and later Pujara went on to put key 92 runs on the board.
Courtesy of Pujara’s 92, India earned a lead of 188 runs before Ashwin’s magical spell of 6 for 41 handed India a victory. Bengaluru’s local boy KL Rahul, who scored twin fifties, was awarded the Player of the Match and he thoroughly deserved it. However, a few years from now, the Test will be recollected for Ashwin’s heroics, Rahul’s performance in front of his home crowd and the DRS drama between Smith and Kohli. Pujara’s crucial 92 will be buried somewhere.
Nevertheless, Pujara must have made peace with the fact that he is India’s unsung hero. This has happened in the past and looks likely that it will continue in the future too. Going back to Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2010-11, Pujara had made his Test debut in Bengaluru in the second Test. The match is remembered for Sachin Tendulkar’s double century and 53 not out and a very few might retain a debutant Pujara’s top score of 72 in the fourth innings when India were chasing 207.
In the last few months, Kohli’s four Test double centuries and Ashwin-Jadeja’s spin demons have been widely credited with India’s unstoppable Test run. Then there came Karun Nair’s triple century, sidelining the Saurashtra batsman’s efforts further down. Amidst of this, there has been a Pujara who has been India’s silent warrior. He was the top-scorer in the Test series against New Zealand, he stood third behind Kohli and Joe Root against England and he made critical contributions even in the one-off Test against Bangladesh. He once again proved worth when he played a game-changing knock against the Australians to bring India back into the series.