Cheteshwar Pujara’s type was cast even before his debut the year before. The classicism of his technique and the soundness of his temperament, allied by his penchant for big scores and the ability to spend tedious hours at the crease meant he was framed in the Rahul Dravid mould. He couldn’t be someone else.
At a certain phase of a player’s growth, such comparisons serve as tools of motivations. But beyond a particular point, it becomes a thrusting clutch, a sort of redundant armour the player is uncomfortable with. This isn’t to say that Pujara hasn’t coped up with niggling clatter of being casted Dravid’s successor, but such mantles are better kept aside.
Admirably, the youngster has kept his feet firmly grounded and has an implacable urge for run-making, to occupy the crease for as long as he could and score runs as many runs as he could, a purpose that serves him kick on even after reaching the three-figure milestone. In Hyderabad, he converted his hundred to 159 but was aghast as he threw his wicket away.
But he was vigilant not to repeat the same and pile an even bigger hundred, as he had been in the domestic year after year. “I always put a price on my wicket. I don’t like getting out and I don’t want to get out even after getting a double hundred. I have done the same in domestic and India A tours. We targeted at least 500 runs and it was important that I stayed there,” he said.
Missing out on a hundred against the visitors in the practice game further motivated him. “I am happy that I got out for 87 in that match, for it motivated me to get a hundred. I didn’t feel any pressure going into the series as my confidence was quite high after scoring that hundred against New Zealand,” he reflected.
Batting at number three has its own responsibilities, which he relishes. “I like that responsibility to bat at the top of the order. More often than not you end up facing the new ball and it’s a challenge I really like,” revealed Pujara, who occupied a colossal 513 minutes at the crease.
Now that he has proved his wares in home conditions, the impending ask would be to replicate the promise in overseas conditions. “I have toured a lot of countries and have scored runs there. And I want to replicate the same kind of performances in international matches too,” he beamed.
The best pat — doubtless his phone’s buzz hasn’t died out — came from Rahul Dravid himself, who dropped a congratulatory text from the commentary box.