Cheteshwar Pujara going through troubled times: A score of 46 runs and 16 runs from two Test innings, in the ongoing series in West Indies, from the bat of a technically sound and a prolific scorer like Cheteshwar Pujara, and that too against a bowling attack that is a shade lesser than the Ranji Trophy standard, does not entirely define the batsman.
Pujara was billed to be the next ‘Wall’ after Rahul Dravid, called it quits.
With a tally of 2,482 runs from 58 Test innings (unbeaten on five occasions), at an average of 46.83 with 7 centuries and 7 half-centuries definitely justifies the ‘Wall’ tag given to him.
Team India definitely needs a tough guy at No 3 slot which is a very critical position, given the fact that the openers – Dhawan, Vijay, Rahul are yet to show consistency. Dhawan has, in fact, not been very effective. So the No 3 slot has a big role to play in anchoring the innings, in case of an early setback.
Pujara has scored even lesser than the relatively new-comer, Lokesh Rahul, who has shown a great level of maturity in scoring big and also in building up the innings.
What is really bothering Pujara, is something only he can answer.
“We have done quite a few firsts in the last year. In Jamaica we understood the things that went wrong. We corrected those things here on the fourth day. We got seven wickets for 31 runs and that was the game-changer. We have always aimed to win series’ away from India. This is a good start. We made three changes and we understood Rohit needs to be backed at a particular position. I batted at No.3, Jinks at No.4. Rohit is dangerous at No.5. That means I take up the extra responsibility at No.3. I don’t mind that and someone like Ashwin is batting well. And we can play five bowlers. Wonderful, commendable from Bhuvneshwar. He showed the bowlers how to bowl in consistent areas. We lost early wickets here, that’s the way Test cricket goes. I am being too critical but we will look for a complete performance in Trinidad”.
This is what the Indian skipper, Virat Kohli, said in the post-match presentation of the Third Test at Darren Samy National Cricket Stadium, Gros Islet, which India won convincingly by a huge margin of 237 runs, going up 2-0 in the four-match series.
Kohli’s comments also reveal his confidence on Pujara being relatively low since he (Kohli) is hinting at shifting to the No 3 position and bringing in Rohit Sharma at no 5.
Does it mean that Pujara would have to struggle to get into the Playing Xi? Well, it seems so, atleast for the time being.
Given the fact the Pujara plays only in the longer format and also does not feature in IPL, the focus on him is relatively low. He might hardly be spoken about in the selection committee, unless the selection was for a Test match/series.
Fortunately for him, Team India would be playing close to 15 Test matches in the next 10-12 months.
Let it not be forgotten that Pujara, who was made to open the innings alongwith KL Rahul in the third and final Test against Sri Lanka at Sinhalese Sports Cricket Ground, Colombo, in Aug-Sept 2015, went on to score an unbeaten 145* runs in the first innings and also went on to pick up the Player of the Match award.
It is now absolutely essential for Pujara to do a deeper introspection and analyse the problem, if any, and to work out the solution sooner than later.
Definitely there would not be any issue with the techniques, per se, since he has been amassing tons and tons of runs in the domestic circuit. His highest individual Test score is also an unbeaten 206* runs. All these runs have not come ‘for nothing’.
The issue could be something connected to his mind. He can take help of the support staff available in Team India, openly discuss with them and come out with an ideal situation.
Team India supporters do definitely want this 28-year ‘young’ batsman, to get back to his groove, sooner than later, and justify the ‘Wall’ tag assigned to him.