Two images, if not more, pertaining to Cheteshwar Pujara in 2023, will always stand out and we’ve not even reached half of the year. First is Pujara dancing down the track under pressure to Nathan Lyon at Indore in the second inning with the ball going a few rows back between the deep mid wicket and mid on region.
And second is what transpired in the ongoing season of the County championship at the Hove ground.
After spending his time at the wicket for his Sussex side, Pujara would find a shorter one hurled at him right outside off by a right arm medium pacer. The end result would be our man guiding the ball towards the third man region for a boundary with which he’d bring up yet another hundred miles away from the home comfort of sub-continental Indian pitches.
Two completely different images that speak volumes about a man who’s increasingly being targeted for being a bit too watchful and going by the contemporary audience’ fetish for fast paced cricket, too slow!
In the former, seconds before Cheteshwar Pujara took the matters into his own hands carving an uncharacteristic six, his Test captain Rohit Sharma was seen having a bit off a chatter in the team dugout where it could be gauged he was signalling rather frustratedly to a co player, about Pujara not showing intent.
Just that some was shown instantly with the crowds coming out live to support Pujara.
In the second image, there was no captain or coach to guide what the batsman should or should not do; Pujara, captaining Sussex in his maiden assignment, brought up his century.
Truth be told, while much of the world can have a go at a batsman who doesn’t make news for sublime strike rates and batting wildly, Cheteshwar Pujara is his own man.
He’s unmoved by what others have to say. And as seen over all these years, he’s unfazed by both critical reception and adulation.
Yet, he’s as significant to Indian cricket today as he was over a decade back in time when he first wielded the cricket bat for India.
A few hours ago, as much of the T20-obsessed fan base in a Sachin and Virat land was utterly consumed by the histrionics of the IPL, one man was diligently piling on the runs in a county champioship.
Surely, there aren’t many takers for him in the Indian Premier League; but it can be ascertained with quiet surety that Cheteshwar Pujara knows what he is doing.
He understands well what is expected out of him in the coming days where it’s not the bludgeoning strokes of the IPL that India will need, but the good old fashioned Test match doggedness.
That’s Cheteshwar Pujara.
Doesn’t have a star status so to speak. Measures up to a lightweight where it comes to his celeb status, especially when compared to a certain MS Dhoni or Virat Kohli. Doesn’t have the big adventurous brands that soar one’s financial status. Doesn’t have the lucrative deals, which others around him boast of that could give accountants an entire day’s work to figure out just how much is flowing in the rich coffers.
But truth be told; none of it matters.
For what does and will come to surface come the finals of the World Test championship will be the much-awaited contest against Australia.
Batting wizardry cultivated around pinch hitting may not really come to matter as what might when India face a troika of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins would be the quality of defying big attacks.
And given by his recent form and all he’s been achieving here in County cricket, it seems Cheteshwar Pujara will matter just as much as any impact player of the IPL or its orange cap holder!