To adequately describe someone like Cheteshwar Pujara is a tall task. He is the type to not attract much limelight and will always stay under the radar. His personality is such that he won’t get headlines from the media.
In public, Pujara is confident yet shy, sure yet soft, sincere yet serene. On the face of it, it may appear that people like Pujara very quietly do their job. But scratch underneath the surface and you will find a fierce competitor who will do anything and everything to excel in his field. He would bat for hours in the nets if he finds a slightest of crack in his defense. He would take hundreds of throw-downs to strengthen his instinct as batsman.
Forget cricket, even to win a tennis match with him is a tough task. Even at friendly games of Playstation, Pujara will master his skills and won’t let anyone get an easy win. He would be the most active team member in the warm-up foot volley games and at times, most vocal when his side has to claim a debatable point.
Whenever there is some friendly team bonding games or sessions, Pujara is the most efficient and in-demand member of the side. When it comes to any call of the team, Pujara is the first one to raise his hand, whether its standing at the silly point or going for the press conference on a not-so-good day for the team to defend his teammates.
Not many people are aware of this aggressive streak in Pujara, which is inherited and imbibed in him. His resolve and commitment at times is blurred under his gentle demeanour and contagious smile. But have a close look at the journey of this Virat Kohli led side and you would find deep imprints of Pujara’s effort and contributions.
It all started with India’s tour of Sri Lanka in 2015, where the series was evenly poised at 1-1 and the last Test match was played on a wicket that tested the skill and application of every batsman. Pujara didn’t play the first two Test matches and was itching to make a comeback in the side. He was asked to open the innings at SSC and since then, he hasn’t looked back. That innings of 145 not out, where he carried his bat, was also where he added almost half the runs to the overall total of 312. This contribution was more special as it came on very challenging pitch. India won that match comprehensively. Indian cricket and Pujara have taken some rapid strides from there.
Consider every victory India has achieved during this period and you will find valuable innings from Pujara. Just like Dravid and Tendulkar, his contributions sometimes may get lost in the dominant performances of Virat Kohli, probably the best contemporary batsman. To cite some examples, his hundred at Vizag against England was sheer force and his 92 against Australia on an extremely challenging wicket was a master-class in patience and technique. In Ranchi, he stood between Australia and their effort to dominate India and the series. By the end of this innings, he had turned the tables.
Pujara has mattered when it mattered the most; he has absorbed the pressure so others could exhibit their skills. He drained the opposition by his temperament and tenacity. In between these massive contributions, there have been whispers around his strike rate and him being labeled as a one-dimensional player who can deliver in whites. To add to it, he has had to go through the embarrassment of remaining unsold for the IPL-2017. Despite all this happening around him, he has remained like a monk who has absorbed and absolved everything for a greater glory.
Before the start of the 2015 season, Pujara’s form and fitness were under the scanner and like a good student he went to the gurukul of his kind of batting. Rahul Dravid was made India-A coach and Pujara played under him to clear his doubts and overcome his inner demons. Sometimes in batting, the issues are more in the mind than in the game. Credit must be given to the authorities who had the vision to bring someone like Dravid in the system. Pujara made the most of his time with the legend to emerge fitter, better and stronger.
This Indian side led by Virat Kohli is in pursuit of greatness. They want to dominate at home and win overseas. They want to overcome every obstacle, break old perceptions and carve new landmarks. For all this, India would need a ‘New Wall’ to stand tall and ensure the safety of the batting forté of Indian cricket.
A new wall has emerged in Indian cricket and his name is Cheteshwar Pujara.