India had gained a substantial first innings lead of 258 runs in 3rd Test at Indore. With just 6 overs remaining in the day, Virat Kohli decided not to enforce follow on. One reason for this could be if New Zealand had batted well in second innings and gained a slender lead of say anything between 100-150, they could”ve fancied their chances with 2 spinners on deteriorating pitch. 150 would have been a nervous chase even for a strong batting line up like India. Gambhir has sustained a shoulder injury and there were talks about him not participating in the match further. But to everyone”s surprise he came to open with Vijay. This shows the amount of courage he has got and how gutsy cricketer he is!! Unfortunately when he was on 4*, the pain in his shoulder aggravated and had to retire hurt. CheteshwarPujara joined Murali Vijay at the crease with India 11 for no loss. He got off the mark and managed to survive the remaining part of the day.
Resuming on Day 4, Pujara had a sedate start to his innings. But slowly he came to his groove and played some skillful shots later on. A fine sweep, almost like a paddle scoop for 4 got his innings going. It had an element of risk involved because Williamson at fine leg was up in the ring and it was played uppishly but fortunately away from Williamson at 45. Then he gave the charge to Trent Boult and smashed it straight down the ground for 4, something that you won”t expect from Pujara. When he was on 45* he opened the face of the bat to run it down to third man for a boundary. It was a quicker delivery by Jeetan Patel at 98 kph and Pujara played it very late, almost off wicket keeper”s gloves. Then on the next ball he played a similar shot down to third man for a single to bring up his 50 just before lunch.
It took 96 deliveries and his strike rate was slowly creeping up. Just after his fifty a long hop by Santner was smashed to mid wicket fence. Then he again paddled the ball towards fine leg for yet another boundary. When Jeetan Patel came to the attack he played a cut shot to a ball that didn”t had to much width. He pierced the gap between third man and backward point with the precision of a surgeon and practice pitches did the rest. You don”t want to be bowling short if you are a spinner to Pujara in such a sublime touch and Patel did just that and paid the price for it. Catch was the call but Boult at deep mid wicket couldn”t stop it. Pujara brought up his 100 with a pull backward of square for 4 and India declared.
Majority of his runs came on backward of square on the leg side. Percentage wise scoring on off side and leg side was 44% and 56% respectively. He hit 9 fours out of which 3 were sweeps behind square leg, 2 pulls over mid wicket, couple of cuts, a dab towards third man and one down the ground towards long off. The way he paced his innings was beautiful to watch. In his first 43 balls he scored only 11 runs, brought up 50 in 96 balls and hundred in 148 deliveries. He scored his last 90 runs in 105 balls at a strike rate of close to 85. Often he is being criticized for his slow rate of scoring, particularly after the innings in 2nd test vs West Indies at Jamaica. But Pujara silenced his critics brilliantly. This innings by Pujara helped India gain a substantial lead and bat New Zealand out of the game. It gave India a good 4 sessions to bowl out Kiwis, which India managed to quite easily in a session and little more.
His overseas figures don”t quite do justice to his potential, but when it comes to batting in subcontinent Pujara has hardly put a foot wrong. A stalwart in domestic circuit, Pujara has the ability to bat for long hours at the crease. There has been a fair degree of debate about No.3 batsman in Test cricket. Many have been of the view that Rohit Sharma having the ability to score at a high strike rate should bat at 3, while some cricket experts believe Virat Kohli being the best batsman, should occupy No.3 spot. But after this series it is safe to say that Pujara has made No.3 spot his own. Virat and Rohit are best suited middle order at their respective position. India are already No.1 in tests and Pujara”s solidity could be instrumental if they are to retain the No.1 test ranking for a long period of time.
– by Atharva Apte