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

Mumbai

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.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam