Cheteshwar Pujara Battles His Way to A Stubborn Century

12 players have gotten to Hundred Tests so far from the Indian Team. Cheteshwar Pujara, in all likeliness is set to be the 13th to join a list of privileged players who have played 100 Tests for the Indian Team. 100 Tests is a huge milestone, which often takes a really long time, requires a […]

Cheteshwar Pujara Battles His Way to A Stubborn Century
  • Cricket Winner | February 16, 2023 | 10:58 pm

12 players have gotten to Hundred Tests so far from the Indian Team. Cheteshwar Pujara, in all likeliness is set to be the 13th to join a list of privileged players who have played 100 Tests for the Indian Team. 100 Tests is a huge milestone, which often takes a really long time, requires a lot of consistency, and talent. After making his debut in 2010, Cheteshwar Pujara finally gets to the mark. His journey has seen some really good partnerships and has also had some really nice battles.

Cheteshwar Pujara, known to not be the most technically gifted, has toiled hard even before his international career started. He spent five years in domestic cricket, churning out the runs before finally getting a chance in international cricket. For a player who is really defensive, Cheteshwar Pujara is extensively bottom handed, and is a rare type of cricketer in the current generation. Rather than going after attacks, Cheteshwar Pujara has made a career out of biding his time and waiting for the right moment to attack, in old fashioned Test Cricket style.

Cheteshwar Pujara Battles His Way to A Stubborn Century
Cheteshwar Pujara Battles His Way to A Stubborn Century

His early exploits in Test Cricket gave evidence that he is a player who is here to stay. Coming in place of Rahul Dravid, Cheteshwar Pujara managed to replicate Dravid’s ability to hold out an end. He went with the strategy of playing out the best and taking on the part-timers, spinners or even the frontline bowlers towards the end of the day when they were fatigued. Through his career Cheteshwar Pujara has made it a habit of coming back strongly. His first visits to the SENA countries have all been forgettable outings.

Barring New Zealand though, where Cheteshwar Pujara has not played much, the returns on subsequent visits have gone better. After failing in England in 2014, Cheteshwar Pujara came back with a really good performance in 2018 including a 132 at Southampton. His average visits to Australia and South Africa too were followed up with some memorable performances in subsequent visits.

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Following his debut, Pujara quickly displayed his worth on Indian pitches and against spin bowling. His run-rate though and intent constantly came into question. With a dull tour of Australia in 2014, Pujara was dropped for his first time. He went on to make a comeback though, carrying the bat after opening the batting on a turning track in Sri Lanka in 2015, with a remarkable 145. The knock earnt him his spot back in the national side, on a regular basis, with Pujara proving that his style of playing patiently worked.

Critics still hung around though. His slow style of play continued to attract their attention as Pujara tended to be the first to be pointed at when things went off. He was dropped once again in the first Test against England in 2018, which was a really questionable move. As gritty as ever, Pujara came back and once again proved his worth with a century in Southampton. He was dropped once more after going through a three year period without a century. In the three year period though, Pujara still churned out decent scores in Australia and England.

Low scores in South Africa though led to his dropping. Pujara, determined though played some county cricket, dominated the proceedings there, and earnt his spot back in the Test side. The journey to a hundred Tests seemed in doubt, but a comeback, a fifty against England, and later a man of the series performance in Bangladesh made the dream seem possible again. He was dropped thrice through his career, and in between each of those droppings Pujara spent considerable time in domestic Cricket.

While his grit to stay in the Indian Team was an aspect throughout his career, Pujara’s grit against bowling attacks was the main aspect defining his journey as India’s number three. As a batter, he rarely looked to hit the ball in the air. On occasions where he does so thiough, Pujara would make his intentions clear. His ability to play percentage cricket is immense. On both his tours to Australia, and his initial exploits in South Africa too, Pujara gave examples of how his percentage cricket bought him runs.

With a solid game against spin, Pujara would constantly bide his time against the likes of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, while he took on the likes of Nathan Lyon and Imran Tahir. He’d take blows to the body and frustrate bowlers to the core. The likes of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood publicly stated that they hated the sight of him with his ability to tire them out. He is impossible to bowl to for spinners, which is something Nathan Lyon knows well.

Over his 99 Tests, Nathan Lyon has bowled the most deliveries to him. He dismissed Pujara 12 times, but only once through the LBW. Through their battles he’s come up with a handful of strategies to trap Pujara, with all those strategies struggling to find success.

Against the Australian pacers too, Pujara had his methods. He’d offer his body, leave with conviction and does not offer his edge easily. Pat Cummins does tend to have an edge over him, however Pujara has done enough to annoy Cummins too, often giving his edge only after tiring Cummins out. With familiar methods, the Australians have tried a lot. They attacked his body in 2020-2021 with a short leg in place. The move worked with Pujara not scoring big, but he still managed to play a huge number of deliveries in each Test, facing more than 900 deliveries over the series to frustrate the bowlers.

In both his recent visits to Australia which often define his career, Pujara again gave an example of how he rations his shots. Waiting for his time, Pujara used his cut to perfection whenever Australia came short and wide.

Over the years, while most batters change their style or update their technique, Pujara remained the same. He stuck with his stubborn style of play, waiting for the moment and continued to play like Pujara. While his grit and ability to grind bowlers is often noted. there are a few more underrated aspects to him. One of them is his ability to hold one end against the best of the bowlers. A memorable example of this is battle with Vernon Philander in 2018. On a tough pitch, Philander had the Indians in all sorts of discomfort, Pujara though held one end up with ease.

His fitness is another aspect that goes unnoticed. Not the fastest runner between wickets Pujara still has done enough to prove his fitness given all his long knocks. Focusing only on one format, Pujara’s fitness for format and technique has been as strong as ever. Despite his form, he often goes back to domestic cricket in a bid to constantly improve his game.

His battles with bowlers is another interesting aspect in his long career. Through his career, Pujara’s battles with James Anderson, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon remain memorable. Each of has dismissed Pujara on numerous occasions throughout their careers, but Pujara has done enough against them to stay in the respective contests. Despite dismissals to them, Pujara found runs against the same bowlers, which has led to some nailbiting battles against each of them.

Within the Indian team, Cheteshwar Pujara has found a handful of reliable partners throughout his career, and each partner helped bring a new dimension to the Test. He is a player who is loved by his teammates. Known for his focus and work ethic, Mohammad Rizwam, Pakistan’s wicket-keeper, himself claimed that he has not seen anyone like Pujara, when the pair spent time together at Sussex.

Within the Indian batting line-up, Pujara has found partners who provide something new to the Indian Team each time. His most famous partnerships in the batting line-up includes Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant. With Vijay, Pujara often had partnerships which frustrated the bowlers. Both batters are really good at leaving the ball and play on the patience of the bowlers. Together, they managed to pull India out of a handful of sticky situations.

With Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara often found himself playing the patient role, while taking on the tougher bowlers as the other two attacked from the other end. In recent times though, Rishabh Pant has emerged as an interesting partner for Pujara. With Pant’s flamboyance in the other end, and Pujara’s rock solid defense, both used their contrasting natures to create some magical partnerships for the Indian Team.

He is loved by his teammates and is also famous for the fact that he never loses an argument, as mentioned by Ravichandran Ashwin. Now, after thirteen long years, and a really good period with the same group of cricketers, after countless battles and partnerships, Pujara finally makes it to the 100 Test mark. Despite not having the most vocal of fans, Pujara has been a player watched closely with his one-of-a-kind style of play. With his character alone he has given the cricketing World a handful of memories, and it is fitting that he plays his 100th Test against Australia, against whom he has had countless battles. Nathan Lyon and co await him for now in the hope that they have many more such battles to come.