The way he is plundering runs and the pace with which he is doing so, it is hard to believe that Cheteshwar Pujara is just seven Test matches old. The cricket fraternity has gone gaga over his temperament and his ability to score big knocks. Former Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar has heaped praises on the right-hander, saying that he has the perfect temperament for the longest format of the game.
The Poms are finding it extremely hard to breach through the right-hander’s flawless technique. His knock in the first innings of the second Test match was a special one, keeping in mind the circumstances when he came to bat. There was no support from the other end and the veterans had disappeared within no time. The English bowlers bowled their hearts out but I reckon, deep within their hearts, they were aware that the match wasn’t theirs until they had sent Pujara back to the pavilion. Their fear came true when Pujara added 111 runs with Ashwin for the seventh wicket, spoiling the celebrations in the English dressing room. His ton was more special than the double hundred he scored against the visiting team in the Ahmedabad Test.
Pujara’s temperament and technique is nothing less than a fresh air for all the cricket fans, who went in a state of shock after Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman announced their retirement. While Pujara has made an immediate impact, what is important here is not to create pressure around him by comparing him with the likes of the former legends. He is being hailed as ‘The Next Wall of Indian Cricket’. It sounds extremely good, but it is something which will sooner or later affect his game.
Rohit Sharma was a naturally gifted batsman. After playing a few special knocks, everybody made it a point to make the right-hander realise how ‘talented’ he was. Sharma did justice with a few innings but then came a stage when most of his knocks went in complete disarray, his body language dropped and nothing worked in his favour. The media and the cricket pundits continued to back him, with which came that extra responsibility. Sharma adopted an aggressive approach in most of the innings that followed and could never meet the enormous burden of expectations.
The same could happen with Pujara. Even though his down-to-earth attitude keeps him and the team going, one mustn’t every now and then compare him with the legendary Rahul Dravid. That would be an error of judgement. Let’s accept it. There can’t be another Dravid till the day cricket is played. Pujara has enormous patience and it is his unique quest to score big innings that will take him to the zenith in the future. But overburdening him with hyped, unnecessary comparisons is something we all should avoid.
Pujara’s spectacular back-to-back innings have been so pleasing to watch that the critics have almost forgotten the failures of other members in the team. Kohli has made a huge impact in the ODIs and Pujara has done something similar in Test cricket. In the second innings of the Ahmedabad Test, he gave a hint of his capabilities when given the license to kill. Watching him play such a crucial knock, we can rest assure that the Indian middle-order would not be as fragile as we all, at one stage, thought it would.
When Dravid and Laxman announced their retirement within a span of five months, the news came as a sigh of relief for bowlers across the world. But it was a major concern for the Indian team, which was used to being rescued by these two under critical circumstances. But with Pujara’s temperament, there is of course a new ray of hope for Indian fans. He will, for sure, take the legacy forward.