Cheteshwar Pujara acknowledges the crowd after finishing his century on the 2nd day of the 2nd Test against Australia in Hyderabad yesterday
Now we know how some Australians and Englishmen feel when Indian cricket teams visit their country. Like recent touring Indian sides, this Australian squad are a ragged bunch struggling to fit their game in alien conditions and getting roasted on the field by home batsmen.
Does it give you wicked joy? Does it make you sympathetic? Does it make you yawn? Perhaps, if this low-quality cricket continues through the series, some will experience all those feelings. There will be many who would have remembered the pain India has suffered overseas.
These would have thoroughly relished India posting a strong 311 for 1, with big hundreds from Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, and smiled at the 74-run lead. There was a moment yesterday, which put the Australian bowling in perspective. The ball dropped from the skies and turned and kicked up alarmingly to startle Pujara, who fended it off his gloves.
That delivery from David Warner was the only delivery that really behaved that way yesterday. Was the pitch chloroformed with anaesthesia before the start? The truth, though, was that the Australians were really poor all throughout Day Two. Not because they didn’t try, but their best wasn’t simply good enough.
Their skewed team selection backfired as one suspected. With a team possessing one-and-half bowlers in James Pattinson and Peter Siddle, the only fight Australia put up was in the first session. And as they baked and withered in the dry heat, Vijay played a career-saving knock and Pujara showed his insatiable appetite for big runs.
The other visual
There was another little visual that reflected the Australians’ frustration perfectly. Pujara was well past his hundred when he edged a James Pattinson delivery towards first slip.
It pitched way ahead of Michael Clarke who couldn’t field the ball. The reaction from the bowler and the fielder said so much: They reacted as if a catch had been grassed.
Pattinson turned his face and screamed the four-letter word into the heat, and Clarke stayed on the ground, his head drooped and looking ever so forlorn. It had been a long day in the field and the two best performers for Australia in this series probably just couldn’t bear the pain of the insult of it all.
Now is the perfect place to put in that cliché: ‘You can’t take anything away from Vijay and Pujara’. Of course one cannot. How many times have we seen a 294-run partnership against any opposition and in such conditions? How many times have we seen two batsmen, relatively new to international scene, be part of such an effort? So, credit must be given where it’s due.
Sense of inevitability
Acolleague wrote an insightful line recently about how Pujara exudes a “sense of inevitability” when he scores these big hundreds. There cannot be a greater credit to the young man, who incidentally yesterday was suffering from a muscle pull and was seen limping at various points in his knock. One can’t wait to see how Pujara performs overseas to see if the final stamp of approval can be given.
Will he delight or disappoint? There is a sense of industriousness about him. Always on the lookout for runs, even against pace, he came up with another assured knock yesterday.
It’s his frenetic cut shot against the seamers that raises hopes about his success abroad. He has a good defence, but doesn’t go into a shell. Often, at the slightest error in length from a seamer, he goes for that cut.
The feet dash back and across quickly – sometimes entirely lifting off the ground – and the bat comes like a rapier. Yesterday, the rest of his staple shots were also on display - the wristy flicks and upper cuts to the seamers, the fierce cover drives and his going down the track to spinners.
As well as Pujara played, the story of the day was M Vijay. Under pressure and fighting to save his career as the team selection for the next two Tests is scheduled to be announced on the final day, he showed great determination. When the bowling was accurate and good in the first session, he resisted stoutly.
He knew that it was only going to get easier after that with this Australian attack and once they were spent, he started to impose himself in style. With his top-hand grip, he used his wrists to glide, steer, drive, punch, and enjoyed himself out there. With it, Australia simply withered.