In a game that originated back in the sixteenth century and has evolved with the progression of time and age, one aspect of the game has never changed and might never will. That aspect is patience. Yes, new aspects have seemed to catch up but time and again patience has always remained at the centre of this game. Time and again, we have seen batsmen step up and play a patient innings to set up a test match victory for their team or many a time to save their team from defeat.
But, patience alone can never be enough. Technique, hunger, grit and resilience are all equally important. One would argue that the technique is of prime importance because it lays the foundation for success and high run scoring. Yet, the mental side of the game according to me is much more important if a batsman is to succeed at the highest level. The technique is extremely important but most of the gruelling battles can be overcome if you have the will and toughness required.
One man who has shown this to world cricket time and again is Cheteshwar Pujara.
Over the years, the number three from Saurashtra has drawn comparisons to the Wall of Indian cricket, Rahul Dravid for his ability to spend hours at the batting crease and help set up test matches for India. Although not as technically correct as Dravid, Pujara always digs in when the situation is tough for the team and most of the time comes out of it with flying colours. The long innings is always around the corner when Pujara is at the crease.
A career made out of brilliantly crafted innings here is his astounding numbers at a glance. Pujara made his first-class debut for Saurashtra in 2005 and has since gone on to make 14,281 runs at an average of 53.9. In November 2017, he surpassed Vijay Merchant as the Indian batsman with most first-class double hundreds as he scored his twelfth double century. Although dubbed a test match specialist, Pujara was a part of the 2006 under-19 world cup squad and ended up being awarded the Man of the Tournament for scoring 349 runs from 6 innings. Ever since his test debut in Bangalore against Australia, Pujara has made records in the longest format of the game. Here are some of them.
· 525: Most number of balls faced in an innings by an Indian batsman
· One of the only three Indian batsmen to bat on all five days of a test match
· Second fastest Indian to 1000 runs in Test matches
· His 153 against South Africa in the second innings is the highest by an Indian in South Africa
Despite all these records and numbers, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Pujara at the International level. He is often criticized for his slow pace of batting and vulnerability against balls coming in. Never the most technically gifted batsman and one with limited shot making the range to his name, Pujara has a factor in him that not many batsmen possess, heaps of concentration level. The testament to this has been the recent India-Australia test series where he has been the difference between the two sides. He has made such a difference that Tim Paine has gone on to say Australians need help against Pujara. He has been the top scorer with 521 runs in 4 tests at an average of 74.43 with three centuries and a fifty. It was his innings of 123 in the first test at Adelaide that set up a record victory for the Indian team. Again in Melbourne, he repeated the feat. His marathon innings of 193 in Sydney where he batted for nine hours and eight minutes is probably the innings that sums up Pujara the best, a batsman who just loves spending time on the 22 yards.
He might not be the biggest striker of the ball nor the most swashbuckling batsman in the team but Pujara is a cut above the rest when it comes to resilience and grit. If he decides he wants to play long innings, the opposition is always in for a long test on the field. At 30, this wonderful human has only just entered his peak and it is safe to say that Indian test team is in good hands of a ‘test expert’.
Keep them hundreds coming, Cheteshwar Arvind Pujara.