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Cheteshwar Pujara: India’s new force at number 3


Cheteshwar Pujara is the new Rahul DravidIt would be very interesting to imagine that if the term ‘Talent’ were to be a person or very nearly a personality, then it would not be seen in isolation without a prop; a prop that it carries almost as an extension of his own personality. Talking in cricketing language and sporting demeanour, the prop would be either “willow heavy” or “charismatic with the red cherry” and its prop in common language of adjectives would be stylish, classy or even swashbuckling. But in Team India’s newest number 3, talent has for company a prop that seems a graceful marriage of the old world classiness and the grit of the new generation.

Cheteshwar Pujara has unveiled a newer face of the word talent. With his feet firmly placed on the ground but with a sky rocketing ambition, Cheteshwar Pujara seems to be busy proving his worth in the team unperturbed by the cynical question whether he would be as heroic as was his great predecessor Rahul Dravid. Legends come and go but the comparisons continue to haunt the newer ones who come to stand under the shadows of them. But somehow the scathing ache generated by comparisons seemed to have never bothered the Great Wall of India and seem harmless to this new emerging talent in the national side.

Seeming to be unnerved with the comparisons, Cheteshwar Pujara looks to be eagerly answering his team’s call to look for a solid fresh resource and making the major transition phase of the Indian national side a pleasant and memorable one.

Howsoever daunting it may be from the inside, Cheteshwar Pujara doesn’t seem to be pressing hard to prove a point to his admirers or critics or even his captain alike on the outside. What seems evident is simply a young, talented batsman bursting with passion to display his fine cricketing abilities whilst working towards cementing his place in the most gruelling format of the game. It isn’t as much the case of exuberance of the young trying to outdo the greatness of the stalwarts, as is the genuine inclination of a young man to showcase his rigour over a five day period.

What is heartening to note is Pujara’s solid technique with a rich repertoire of shots on both sides of the wicket along with a desire to stay at the crease for the longest period. Take the case of Jacques Kallis, Mark Waugh, Brian Lara, Mohd. Yusuf and India’s own Rahul Dravid. While there was enough batting talent to single-handedly steer the game in the favour of their respective teams, it was the want to bat for long periods that really made them stand apart and our new found talent seems to be displaying this gem of a quality from the very start.

What makes a Test cricketer a definitive force is his fine judgement of the ball when it comes in myriad surprise packages. In this version of the game where the bowlers are desperate to prove as much a point as the batsman, there are many surprises wrapped like a puzzle plotted to bring about the latter’s downfall. One moment the shorter one, the other a yorker, with the rest coming as a juicy offering outside the off stump almost as a honey trap set to capture the batsman falling for the lust of fiddling with the wide one. In the recently contested Test match versus the English, Pujara faced all of these with a mind as calm as a hermit in meditation, putting patience as much into play with caution in shot selection. But what stood out was his astonishing control over his range of shots with none executed with a sense of brashness. It was rare to spot him wildly lifting the ball up in the air, thereby negating any chance of him flirting with danger of losing his wicket cheaply. And thus what followed was a masterly innings by the young 24 year old Saurashtra willower, wherein he crafted an unforgettable gem. Having won the toss and having cemented a fine foundation, it was the grit and sheer resolve displayed by Cheteshwar Pujara, that carried the Indian innings forward.

Of course for those who relish nostalgia, the Indian cricket fan rewound to an equivalent of a Rahul Dravid special. But for now, one thing is certain. Besides his famous unbeaten 206, India’s new number 3 would be raring to build lasting monuments and it would be interesting to note if he can conjure up the ones that not just resemble but outnumber the ones constructed by our famous Wall.

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