Dale Steyn, a South African retired pacer believes Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara has lost a part of his game by cutting down on playing shots off the back foot.
Cheteshwar Pujara had a dismal outing in the final of the World Test Championship (WTC) against New Zealand. He scored eight runs off 54 balls in the first innings and following that with 15 off 80 deliveries in the second innings. India ended up losing the game by eight wickets.
Dale Steyn: Cheteshwar Pujara Has Lost Playing Magical Cut Shots And Back Foot Drives
On Day 6, the reserve day of the Test, the Indian No. 3 nicked a ball from Kyle Jamieson to first slip. Expressing his disappointment at Cheteshwar Pujara’s shot selection and cutting down on shots off the back foot, Dale Steyn told ESPNCricinfo that it was a soft dismissal.
“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.”
Dale Steyn added: “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.”
Cheteshwar Pujara’s strike rate is bothering him. In the last few series starting with the New Zealand tour in 2020, his strike rate was 28.49(India vs New Zealand 2020), 29.2(India vs Australia 2020/21), 40.06(India vs England 2021), and 17.16 (WTC Final). His career strike rate is 44.64 and his Test average 46.08. In 2020, his average was only 20.38, and 30.33 in 2021.
Dale Steyn: Cheteshwar Pujara Is Missing Out On Runs
Regarded as one of the greatest bowlers in the game, Dale Steyn bowled to Cheteshwar Pujara during the early part of his career. During India’s 2013-14 tour of South Africa, the duo enjoyed a good contest, with the Indian batsman stroking a 153 in Johannesburg as Dale Steyn went wicketless in that innings. The South African wants Cheteshwar Pujara to be more proactive and not miss out on runs.
“That’s the thing I have seen lacking in Pujara. I’m so used to him rocking onto his back foot and playing with his hands and good feet movement. He’s kind of lost that part of his game. And if you’re only hanging on the front foot, good bowlers will not bowl half-volleys to you.”
Dale Steyn added: “And you’ve got to turn good balls into good shots. That’s the difference between Test cricket and first-class cricket. He’s missing out on a lot of runs there.”
Cheteshwar Pujara has averaged just over 28 since the conclusion of the Australian tour in early 2019. Though he played a crucial hand in India’s triumph in Down Under earlier this year, his strike rate dipped.
Ever since making his debut for the Indian cricket team, he has played the role of a reliable top-order batsman in the red-ball format. However, the 33-year-old is going through a slump as of now. He failed to deliver in both of the innings against New Zealand in the WTC final. As a result, the entire batting lineup crumbled behind him. He scored a combined 23 runs in the Ultimate Test, which is just far below his standards.