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). 

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past