The Indian Angle: Cheteshwar Pujara - Loss of his mother made our new hero immune to pressure

 

Ahmedabad

When Cheteshwar Pujara, the man who has taken Rahul Dravid's coveted No 3 spot in the India Test line-up, was on 199, facing Graeme Swann, the field changed dramatically.

Every available fielder was posted on the off side and Alastair Cook at gully was so close to the nearest man that he could have shaken hands. With the largest and most voluble crowd he has ever played in front of roaring in anticipation, Pujara opened the face of his well-worn bat to thread the needle, trotting to the other end to begin a most well-behaved celebration.

England's intentions in crowding Pujara, upping the ante at a pressure moment, were well intentioned, but then they would not have known that Pujara, just 24 years and six Tests old, had already stared life in the face and refused to blink.

When only 17, Pujara was forced to deal with the news that his mother, Rinaben, had lost her battle with cancer. Only five days later, Pujara was due to play in an under-19 match for Saurashtra and cricket was the last thing on the vulnerable teenager's mind at the time. However, he was convinced to go out and bat by his father, Arvind, himself a first-class cricketer, and, in a match that meant everything, scored his first century. He has not looked back since.

There is an inevitability about the manner in which Pujara makes his runs that has not been seen on the domestic circuit since Dravid made his debut. Pujara builds innings brick by brick, the old-fashioned way. He tries nothing fancy, plays no special shots, but the manner in which he does the ordinary things, the purposeful nature that underpins every stroke he plays make comparisons with Dravid inevitable.

For years, Dravid lived in the shadow of more obviously gifted players, not least Sachin Tendulkar and the inimitable VVS Laxman. But the coming and going of Dravid has taught the Indian public the value of someone who can be counted on to deliver, and Pujara is already held in high esteem in the India dressing room.

At a time when millions follow those who smash sixes in the Indian Premier League, and advertising dollars chase brash young men with tattoos and earrings, Pujara is a Test cricketer in the purest sense. His value is defined by the runs he makes and the matches that these help win.

In first-class cricket, bowlers rue the days when Pujara goes past 100, for he then makes them pay severely. Of his 16 first-class centuries, nine have been 150 or more, with three double hundreds and a triple century in the mix.

"I never like to get out. There's always a price on my wicket," said Pujara, with a twinkle in his eye that belied the effort of spending nearly eight and a half hours out in the middle against England. "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." The explanation, just like Pujara's method with bat in hand, is remarkably simple: he does not try to over-think things or complicate matters any more than is needed.

In this, he is different from Dravid, who was a veteran at self-examination and occasionally tied himself in knots brooding about a certain aspect of the game. At the moment, Pujara is enjoying keeping his mind uncluttered, a luxury afforded to batsmen at the top of their game and making runs at will.

Naturally, sterner tests await Pujara when he learns to counter the moving ball in England or the bounce of harder pitches in South Africa and Australia. Already, though, he has shown a hunger for runs and an appetite for hard work that ensure that he makes the most of the talent he was born with. Few captains or coaches will ask for more than that.

Anand Vasu is managing editor of Wisden India (www.wisdenindia.com). 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future