Posted On Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 08:02:45 AM
Ahmedabad: There is a certain sense of inevitability about Cheteshwar Pujara’s batting. Like the sun rising in the east. It seems a matter of fact that when he goes back to the pavilion, Pujara will have a hundred, double hundred or even a triple hundred in front of his name on the scorecard.
The fact that everyone is now waiting for him to prove himself in overseas conditions is a compliment to that sense of inevitability about him at home. And he is just 24-years-old. There was more evidence of that over the last two days of the first Test.
|Pics: Jignesh Vora
• Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates his double century against England during second day of the first test in Ahmedabad yesterday; (below) R Ashwin took two England wickets to become the quickest of the Indian bowlers to reach 50 Test wickets
Yesterday, when India decided to declare their innings at 521 for 8, Pujara was unbeaten at 206, having faced 389 deliveries in eight-and-anhalf hours that he had spent in the middle.
At stumps, England were hobbling at 41 for 3, still needing 281 to avoid follow-on. Pujara was on 98 overnight and took ten balls before he drove Graeme Swann for a boundary past mid-on to reach his second Test ton.
Unlike few other youngsters who would have abused the world and punched the air like there is no tomorrow, Pujara had a shy smile on his face as he raised his bat. It was in character, and said so much about him. There was a sense of reassuring calm that Pujara exuded.
There is also a sense of anonymity about his batting. He chugs along almost nonchalantly; you hardly notice him. Through the two days, the focus hasn’t exactly been on him.
On Thursday, it was on Virender Sehwag getting back in form with a ton and yesterday it was about Yuvraj Singh, who eventually got out to Samit Patel for 74.
Pujara was in his own zone. Both he and Yuvraj survived some tense moments in the morning including a few confident leg before shouts but once that period passed Pujara flourished. Patel was pulled, Tim Bresnan was hit straight past mid-on, Swann was hit for a boundary through midwicket and he brought up the double hundred with a single off Jimmy Anderson. This time the celebration was a bit more elaborate.
Scoring big tons is not new or rare for the Saurashtra batsman. In 2008-09, he hit three triple tons, two for Saurashtra U-19 and one for the senior side, in a span of 20 days.
As he said yesterday about his panache of scoring big hundreds, “I’ve done the same thing in domestic cricket. I never like to get out.
There’s always a price on my wicket. Even after scoring a double-hundred, I never wanted to give away my wicket. That’s the reason why I’m able to score big runs.”
His hunger was evident from this: “I’d like to mention that it was good that I got out on 87 in the practice game.
If I had ended up scoring a hundred I wouldn’t have had the same motivation to make 100 and then 200 in this game. I was comfortable facing all the bowlers. Initially my concern was Graeme Swann because I hadn’t faced him before. But after I faced a couple of overs against him, I felt that I could manage.”
Just the captain ordered
Right after Rahul Dravid quit international cricket, skipper MS Dhoni was asked about the timing of the move.
This is what he had said then: “Dravid would have been an automatic pick for the three-Test series (New Zealand, England and Australia) but what if he decides to quit just before we travel to South Africa in 2013.
In that case we might have a batsman with little experience and runs.” Pujara feels the same as he reckons that once he gets big scores in home conditions, he will get a lot of confidence. And he will would love to go abroad and repeat the same kind of performances.
The Dravid comparison
It’s actually a bit early but the signs are good. When Dravid made his Test debut in 1996 in England, there were huge expectations as the Karnataka batsman had scored heavily in domestic cricket. But there wasn’t this sense of inevitability.
However, unlike Pujara, Dravid played six of his first ten Tests abroad. Dravid stamped his class with a 96 and 84 in his first two innings and a 148 at Johannesburg. Pujara had a dream debut at home against Australia in Bangalore where his 76 took India to a victory.
But he soon realised his real challenge when he was rattled by pacers in South Africa. He came back on home soil with a ton against New Zealand in August. It would be stupid to take away anything from his runs at home but what certainly will provide the icing on cake will be runs outside the sub-continent.
As for the match, surely we won’t see any fifth-day action given what Pujara described as a “fragile English batting”.