The Indian Angle: Rise of Pujara quells the foreboding over Tendulkar’s decline
In an age when T20 is king, he bats to the rhythms of an earlier generation
Friday 23 November 2012
English cricket supporters of a certain vintage still have nightmares about the summer of ’89, when Steve Waugh announced himself on the international stage with a couple of monumental hundreds.
By the time England finally managed to dismiss him in the third Test at Edgbaston, he had batted 790 minutes and faced 585 balls for 393 runs.
Now, nearly a quarter century on, there’s another 24-year-old bogeyman. English team talks before this series wouldn’t have focussed unduly on Cheteshwar Pujara, but less than three innings into the series, they’re likely to be sick of the sight of him. Pujara’s dominance-defiance of the attack now extends to 361 runs off 719 balls. He has already spent over two and a half days at the crease.
There was a time when Indian fans contemplated the retirements of their middle-order titans in the same way that the Mayans looked at 2012 AD. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid joined Sourav Ganguly on Retirement Row earlier this year, while Sachin Tendulkar hasn’t gone past 27 in his last nine innings. The old order hasn’t faded completely, but the final flick of the switch is mere months rather than years away.
Only now, with Pujara and Virat Kohli establishing themselves, there is no longer a sense of foreboding about moving on. Kohli still tends to get frustrated when he can’t bat at his chosen tempo, but there is a serenity to Pujara’s play that must be so reassuring for a dressing room that relied for so long on Dravid’s poise and tenacity at No.3.
Since making his first-class debut seven years ago, Pujara has mostly been compared to Dravid. He has frustrated and dominated Ranji Trophy attacks and made a habit of scoring big hundreds. And in an age when Twenty20 is king in India, he bats to the unhurried rhythms of a previous generation.
On a pitch where there was appreciable turn from the first session, his footwork and judgment of which balls to play were near impeccable. England were left to rue another couple of half-chances not taken, and, just to rub it in, Pujara reached his century with a pull for four against the second new ball – the least convincing shot in his repertoire
“It was a brilliant knock,” said R Ashwin, whose seventh-wicket partnership with Pujara is already worth 97. “It was a very, very well paced. If he had not got the hundred, it would have been a shame.
“He has a got great temperament and is in great form. He keeps on grinding out runs. Even in domestic cricket, he gets big hundreds.”
The Dravid comparisons are a tribute to Pujara’s powers of concentration and a defence not easily breached, but in terms of style he has more in common with Laxman. Whether it was clipping Shane Warne through midwicket against the turn or driving Muttiah Muralitharan inside-out through cover, Laxman was a master on low and slow pitches.
Pujara seems as adept against the turning ball, whether driving, rocking back to cut or playing his favourite tuck off the pads. When the fours dry up, as they did today, he’s content to rotate the strike and let a more aggressive partner like Ashwin take centre stage.
Pujara’s rich form has also deflected attention from Tendulkar’s miserable year. Those nine failures have seen him bowled four times and leg-before twice. After being bowled in the recent series against New Zealand, there was an angry swipe of the bat, the closest we’ve come to seeing rage against the dying light.
More than a decade after Nasser Hussain came up with the idea of Ashley Giles bowling into the leg-stump rough to thwart Tendulkar, England have a much younger adversary to worry about. Ashwin, who has played with and against Pujara since they were teenagers, offered some clues.
“I have taken his wicket a few times,” he said with a grin. “I had him lbw.”
Easier said than done, given how broad Pujara’s bat has been all series.
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: The biggest fight of all time, or maybe just the most lucrative?
What time does Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao start?
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: What time does it start and where can I watch it?
Sir Alex Ferguson reveals who he thinks is better between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove