Cheteshwar Pujara and Rahul Dravid are as different as ice and ice cream, but like Dravid, Pujara also is a cool customer. Over the last two days, the youngster proved he is worthy enough to be the right replacement for India’s former No 3. In a marathon effort on Thursday and Friday, Pujara established himself as the new Wall of Indian cricket, showing all the characteristics that are needed to be a successful No 3.
At the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Pujara slammed an unbeaten double century (206) in a way that would make Dravid proud and prove that the future Indian cricket is not that bleak after the recent retirements of some of the country’s batting legends.
India have just discovered a marathon man, ready to block one end up.
The best part of his knock was the bottomless reservoir of patience that he has exhibited. Apart from a minor blemish of hitting one up, which James Anderson misjudged, Pujara did not play a single bad shot in the 389 balls he faced. He was equally adept at negotiating both pacers and spinners.
Reading the length early, he was quick to pounce on them. He would pull the spinners whenever they bowled a little short. Leg-side is his business-making area but he is good at playing square off the wicket.
There seems to be infinite energy in his batting. Fitness, of course, is key to any cricketer’s survival in the modern day, but in Pujara’s case it is strikingly evident. Even after 513 minutes of grind, he did not look tired. Solidity? He has added that to Indian batting.
The Saurashtra batsman is not exactly a Rolls Royce on the pitch but his batting is eminently effective. He is a typical hybrid Test batsman — part discipline, part technique, part graft, part concentration and part determination. And hunger?
The other notable feature about his batting is the ravenous appetite for runs. He himself admitted that he wants to score big. "I’ve always done that in domestic cricket," Pujara said.
"I don’t want to lose my wicket. Even after scoring my double century I did not want to give away my wicket. That’s the reason why I’m able to score the big runs. There is always a price on my wicket," said Pujara, a run-machine in domestic cricket.
As for comparisons with Dravid, Pujara does not have the range of shots the former India captain had possessed. Nor does he have the gift of timing and watertight defence that were the hallmark of Dravid’s batting, but then Pujara is only 24 and six Tests old. He can only get better with each passing Test.
The future of Indian cricket is here.