Ind v SL

Published on November 26th, 2017 | by Sarah Waris

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Cheteshwar Pujara and his paradoxical Test career

🕓 Reading time:3 minutes

The runs keep getting notched up. A hundred follows a double hundred. A gritty match-winning knock shadows a jaw-dropping effort to bat out 665 minutes and 525 deliveries to save a game. Just when one had resigned to the end of blocking-and-defending deliveries, which made an exit when Indian legend Rahul Dravid walked into the sunset, there emerged Cheteshwar Pujara who was as patient, as flawless and as technical as the former player. Being equipped with a calm persona further enhanced the comparisons and as soon as Pujara had knocked off centuries on the trot, he was established as the ‘Next Dravid in the Making.’ It remained a stupendous compliment for a youngster from whom the margin of expectations increased two-fold after every innings.

Fifty-three matches into his career, the player from Rajkot has scored 4324 runs at a batting average of 53.38. Fourteen centuries, which includes three double centuries and six scores in excess of 150 tells its own tale and based on numbers purely, one would hesitate to question the maverick’s potential and talent. However, the real challenge is measured when a player is caught up in pressure situations in alien conditions away from the comforts of his home soil. If he is still able to script consistent performances, he establishes for himself a resounding legacy in the Test arena. And this is where Pujara has failed to stamp his authority.

In 32 matches that have been played in wickets where the deliveries hardly reach the ribcage, Pujara averages an impressive 64.12, with ten hundreds and 13 fifties. In conditions that assist seam, swing and bounce, the average drops to 38.52 with four hundreds and just three fifties. On further dissecting these overseas numbers, Sri Lanka ranks the highest in terms of an impression created, where he averages 90.80 with three of his four away centuries being scored in the Emerald Isle. His fourth away hundred was way back in 2013 when he mastered the Dale Steyns and Jacques Kallis’ for a fighting 153 in Johannesburg.

Average of Pujara in different conditions
Player In South Africa In Australia In England In the Subcontinent

(Except India)

In India In New Zealand In West Indies
Pujara

 

44.42 33.50 22.20 90.80 64.12 15.0 31.0

 

Pujara’s below-par scores in all nations except South Africa and Sri Lanka raise eyebrows about the impact that the number 3 player has made whilst touring. In Sri Lanka, the conditions are not dissimilar to the conditions on offer in India and the runs scored in the island are not really a testament to his skills against balls that dart back into the batsman.

The strong contradictions in his record against Australia in India- where he averages 64.28- and against Australia Down Under- where he has scored at an average of just over 33.50, shows his tentativeness against bouncers and bowling friendly pitches.

Against England at home, he averages 64.53. Against West Indies- 65.0. Against New Zealand- 73.62. The fact of the matter then remains, that the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Southee and Trent Boult can be mastered but only when the pitches remain devoid of demons, which display his suspect defence in full glare.

In England, he averages just 24.50 against the bowling of Anderson which escalates to an impressive 60 in India. The Aussie bowlers are punished by the right-hander at home, scoring at an average of 124 against them but the tables turn on Pujara when he succumbs to an average of 21 against the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood. For a number three batsman, whose role is to primarily build a foundation, giving the successive batsmen the liberty to express themselves, Pujara’s faulty techniques, which makes it easy even for a part-time spinner like Moeen Ali to constantly decipher him, remains a cause for worry.

Test figures for Pujara while batting at number 3
Conditions Matches Runs Average Highest Score 100s
Home

 

31 2779 64.62 206* 10
Away

 

17 1113 38.37 153 3

 

Again, it is worth noting that his average at number 3 overseas leapfrogs to 38.37 courtesy his scintillating knocks against Sri Lanka.

Despite his lacks, one in no way can seem to eradicate the impact that the player from Rajkot has created. Batting for eight successive days in a Test series requires its own monk-like zone of attention and a mindset that is uncluttered with the chaos that resides in the outside world. By playing for the county team Derbyshire, Pujara has shown knowledge of his own shortcomings and his strong-willed intent to improve his technique and shot selection in situations when the ball keeps whizzing past the ear at 150kmph. The upcoming tour to South Africa gives the Indian an opportunity to rectify the numbers and move away from being called a flat-track bully into a dependable batsman, who can be summoned in all conditions.

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About the Author

mm

This postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words. She spends her hours gorging on food and blabbering nineteen to the dozen while awaiting the next sporting triumph.



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