When Virender Sehwag was dismissed on Wednesday, everyone was expecting local boy Rahul Dravid to walk into the middle.
But the player who walked in — his skull in a helmet that didn’t even bear the Indian crest for some reason — surprised the entire audience, including Ricky Ponting.
Cheteshwar Pujara knew the selectors were watching him from the P2 pavilion at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Having got out cheaply in the first innings, Pujara didn’t want to lose this opportunity. And deliver he did by scoring a brilliant 72 to turn the tide in India’s favour.
“It was difficult (the first innings dismissal), the seniors came and told me that you can’t do much about that kind of ball. Continue to play positively,” said Pujara.
In fact, Pujara pointed out how Tendulkar motivated him in the second innings. “I also remember he (Sachin) told me that God has given you this chance to play; he will help you score runs, don’t worry.”
Pujara has literally earned his spot. The Saurashtra batsman first came into the limelight when he ended the 2006 U-19 World Cup as its highest scorer with 349 runs. His hunger for runs made him one of the top run-getters in the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season. But it was in 2008-09 that Pujara really started knocking the doors. He first scored two triple hundreds for Saurashtra in an U-22 tournament and then followed that up with another triple century against Orissa in the Ranji Trophy.
This year, Pujara captained India ‘A’ on a tour of England and was the highest scorer.