Right from the Ahmedabad Test, Cheteshwar Pujara has batted 924 minutes without getting dismissed. That totals up to over 15 hours, enough to complete two cycles of sleep.
Pujara arrived in the first over, with James Anderson and Stuart Broad generating appreciable bounce on a true Wankhede wicket. The pace test cleared with an A-grade, Pujara got down to blunting the spinners.
There were no early punches against Monty Panesar who had flung a spanner into India’s batting machine. He relied on flexibility of feet and the last-minute adjustments of hands instead of going hard at the ball.
Skipper Alastair Cook introduced his lead spinner Graeme Swann as late as the 24th over. Not that Swann struck right away. But when he did, in the 40th over, the scoreboard read 119/ for five and India realised they were playing in Mumbai and not Manchester.
So what if Pujara was holding one end up, Cook would have thought. New man R Ashwin couldn’t possibly do what his illustrious colleagues didn’t. But Cook missed a point. The last time Ashwin played here, he got a hundred and a ten-for. And lest forgotten, Ashwin has been a Tamil Nadu opener during his U-19 days.
Ashwin batted as though he was on 200 overnight. He flicked Panesar through midwicket for the first of his nine boundaries. A little later, Stuart Broad paid the price for bowling back-to-back half-volleys. The highlight of Ashwin’s purposeful knock was the manner in which he went from 36 to 48. He collected three fours off a James Anderson over, bowled with the new ball, hitting him to point, fine-leg and square-leg respectively. One pull off Anderson would have done a top-order bat proud. A boundary in Broad’s next brought him the fifty and his celebration was noteworthy.
It was a fascinating period of play, with Pujara matching Ashwin stroke for stroke. The range of his shots could be gauged by his batting wheel. Flicks, pulls, whips, he scored the bulk of the runs on the leg-side during a 97-run stand.
Yes, these are early days. What Pujara is capable of doing in Australia, England and South Africa, when the furnace is at its fiercest, remains to be seen. For now, Rahul Dravid can sleep with the thought that the Indian batting is in sound health.