Cheteshwar Pujara is no ordinary batsman. He is someone who’s already faced over 14,000 deliveries in Test cricket, has played the most number of deliveries in a single inning to reach a double hundred in the five-day game, 525 to be precise, and above all, has scored over 6,000 runs in the longest format of the game. It’s the format where his skills have yielded 18 Test hundreds and seen fans sleeping in the stadia only to be awake to note that India’s famous number three is still unbeaten and batting on and on.
And yet, there’s a problem concerning Cheteshwar Pujara. And it’s that, of late, he’s hardly been the batsman one has expected him to be- the one who can wane out bowlers and in the process, collect useful runs to grind out the opposition.
In the much-hyped and widely-followed, albeit painful-to-see loss in the World Test Championships Final, Cheteshwar Pujara collected 23 runs. And he took 134 deliveries to do so. That being said, questions, it is true, have now begun to arise whether the man who once made the mighty Australians toil, in a very Rahul Dravid way, is the same batsman who once was and if he’s losing the plot.
Are there glaring chinks in Pujara’s armour that need immediate connection before it is too late and the team can no longer rely on the dignified and committed batsman to score useful runs?
Whether all of that is true or not, we do not know, whilst all of us have our answers. But fact is, none other than the great Dale Steyn has offered some views on the batsman known for his meticulous technique and watchful game.
So here’s what Styen-gun had to offer:
“Out of my memory, I just remember Pujara playing great off his legs. Very, very good off his legs and eyes underneath the ball. But I do remember him playing some magical cut shots and back foot drives. Maybe on pitches that a little bit quicker – and Indian wickets are not quick – he played some beautiful balls underneath his eyes through the cover. It’s a part of the game that I feel he has lost.”
Moreover, the wildly quick South African pacer also had a few more observations to add on Pujara, still widely respected for his batting and someone considered a huge contributor in India’s great win at the Gabba, Jan 2021:
“That shot today that he played, if he was in a better position, a couple of years ago, maybe he would have gotten more on the back foot and punched it through the covers. Whereas he just stood there half and half on his front foot. Overall, a very soft dismissal – running it down to first slip is a very peculiar way of getting out for a top batter.”
How early can Pujara get back among the runs we do not know. What one does reckon, however, is that the earlier he does, it is better for both his own sake and for the sake of a team that needs its number 3 to fire.