Cheteshwar Pujara was criticized for his slow inning against West Indies in the second Test at Sabina Park, in a four-match series. In the first Test of the series, his horrendous shot after getting settled at the crease led to his downfall, but the slow innings in the second Test did not go down well with Indian fans. Pujara worked hard before the second Test. When the Indian team management declared a day off, Pujara was seen practicing in the middle.
“I just want to practice a little more. Since I didn’t score runs in the first Test, I can get some extra hits. I am the kind of player who likes to work hard. Whenever there is an option to practice I prefer to practice,” Pujara said.
But on a difficult wicket where West Indies bowlers were bowling with discipline, Pujara’s defense was impeccable. He scored 46 runs off 158 balls and was looking fine to score his a half century, maybe even a hundred. Pujara never looked uncomfortable or confused on a not so batting friendly wicket. He was determined to play a good innings, but the seaming wicket and a disciplined Windies bowling didn’t let him accelerate the innings.
However, there is no harm in it as KL Rahul kept the innings going. But Pujara was about to score his half-century after a gap of eight months. Before the West Indies series, Pujara last played for India against South Africa in a home series in December 2015. So he needed a little bit of time to settle down.
A finely poised inning came to an end due to a misjudged attempted single
In the second Test, Pujara made a mistake, as he attempted a misjudged single at square-leg where Roston Chase was quicker than what Pujara anticipated. He pushed a delivery from Jason Holder to the leg square and ran for a single, but he misjudged the situation, and as a result, Roston Chase’s dead-eye throw uprooted the stump at the nonstriking end. Pujara first slumped, then desperately dived and then didn’t raise his head for a while. He waited for third umpire’s decision and then left the ground as a heartbroken child who missed out on this chocolates.
It was really a heartbroken incident for a cricketer who gets run out after getting back to cricket in a gap of eight months. In ODIs, run out are okay, to an extent, as the pressure of rotating the strike and keeping up with a often pre-decided run rate is a big factor, but in Test cricket, a batsman gets a good amount of time to settle down and can take his time about he is going to do.
But Pujara made a mistake and will probably pay for it when Murali Vijay returns.
Fans cry foul
Indian fans criticized Pujara for his tedious innings. But they failed to understand the importance of his wicket. And they can’t differentiate between different formats of the game. For example a blitz in T20 cricket where a batsman desperately goes about hitting balls for a boundary and running hard. But why these fans want razzmatazz of T20 cricket in a five-day match? The problem is their inability to judge the wicket. Test cricket often tests the character of a batsman. In the 5-day format of the game, patience is a key component for a batsman who wants to succeed. Also, Pujara needs some time to get into the groove. During his 46 runs, Pujara’s defense was impeccable; footwork was outstanding and his technique was flawless.
Pujara was troubled by Jason Holder’s seaming delivery once or twice and then Miguel Cummins’ delivery unexpectedly once breached Pujara’s defense which went over the bails. Other that the above-mentioned incidents, Pujara was outstanding at the crease.
In overseas conditions, he has failed to justify his place
But at the end of the day, his scores will speak on his behalf and nothing else. In overseas conditions, he has scored only two hundreds. In 2015, on Sri Lanka tour, Pujara carried his bat (145*) in the final Test against Sri Lanka when other Indian batsmen slumped against Sri Lankan bowlers. He scored a hundred in South Africa in a low scoring series in 2013.
Besides this, he has failed in Australia, New Zealand, England and in West Indies. His Test average in overseas is not even decent. He has 33.50 average in Australia, 22.20 in England, 15 in New Zealand and in West Indies he has an average of 31.
When Pujara made his international debut against Australia in 2010 he was reckoned to be India’s next star in Test cricket. He scored 72 in the second innings of his debut Test, his innings was a glimpse of wht=at is in store for the future. Now it is up to Pujara to build on that promise.
Low scores will not speak for Pujara
He has been playing Test cricket for India for six years now. He has an astonishing home series record but has failed to justify his talent in overseas conditions.
Yes, he deserves more chances, but the Indian team’s current selection conundrum may not support him, as Rohit Sharma is warming the bench and KL Rahul’s 158 is not a good sign for him. Pujara may have to seat on the bench in the next Test, but he still deserves chances as he got out when he was on the verge of converting his promising innings into something substantial. So it remains to be seen how Indian selectors will handle this conundrum with an impeding comeback of Vijay in the next game.
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