Cricket / pujara
Australia: Kohli's and India's greatest away success
Virat Kohli celebrating India's triumph against the Australians with his team mates Source Every captain that leaves his country’s shores for an away cricket tour plans to return victorious no matter what is the strength of his team. Virat Kohli’s thoughts would have been the same when he left India for Australia after a successful campaign against the visiting West Indies. I would not blame him for having his doubts given that India had lost both the away tours of South Africa and England earlier in the year. It wasn’t that the Indians did not play well on both the outings. But as was admitted by one and all there were some tactical blunders in those two tours drawing scepticism from cricket fans around the world about India’s status as the number one team in the world. On this Australian tour, everything fell into place for Virat Kohli and his men to a nicety. Much was written about Virat Kohli’s ability as a captain and as a batsman. His previous exploits in Australia were discussed threadbare. But surprisingly another quiet man in the team put up his hand and got counted. Chateswar Pujara simply decided to bat on and on at his own merry pace much to the annoyance of the bowlers. And the best bowling attack in the world got tired to the extent that they were bored of bowling to him. His 512 runs, with three centuries that he scored simply ground the bowlers into subjugation. Just imagine bowling 1258 balls to a man who scored 512 runs in four Test matches. Virat Kohli and Mitchell Starc after India drew the T20 series at Sydney Source The Indian bowling unit also came out looking not only good but is rated among the best in the world today. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma with help from Ravichandran Aswin and Ravindra Jadeja virtually dictated the terms to the Australian batsmen. If it was Bumrah and Ashwin with six wickets each in the first Test which India won, it was Mohammed Shammi who grabbed nine wickets in the second when Australia won. It was in this Test match that Kohli scored a century in the first inning. In the third Test match, Pujara and Bumrah were at it again. While Pujara scored another patient century, Bumrah ripped through the Australian inning to take six wickets in the first and another three in the second inning to win the match for India. Were it not for the rain in the last Test match at Sydney that interrupted play, there is only one way the match could have gone and that is India’s way. With Pujara and Rishab Pant posting century India enforced the follow on when rain stopped play in the match. India had won their first Test match series 2-1 in Australia since their first quest on the Australian shores in 1947. Cheteshwar Pujara, the man who batted on and on for India celebrating his century while being applauded by an Australian player Source In the ODI’s too India played creditably and won the series 2-1 after conceding the first ODI to the Australians. Mahendra Singh Dhoni pleasantly surprised one and all by scoring three half-centuries in all the three matches and leading India to victory in the last two matches. That certainly confirms his place as the wicketkeeper of choice for India in the ICC World Cup this English summer. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, who did not bowl in the Test matches, bowled well in the ODI’s and Yazuvendra Chahal who played only in the last ODI finished with figures of 6 wickets of 42 runs. The Indian team has left for New Zealand where they will play a number of ODIs and T20 internationals with the Kiwis before they return to India. The two teams, India and New Zealand are ranked at number two and three in the world ODI rankings respectively and both the teams will be looking to assert their supremacy over the other. The Indians will be going into the series with a confidence of being the undisputed victors in Australia which few teams can boast off when leaving Australian shores. The upcoming contest between the two teams will be a keen contest. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma are now rated among the most potent fast bowling attack in the world Source
Is Cheteshwar Pujara the new Rahul Dravid?
The world’s No.1 Test team needed a flying start to assert themselves in this Adelaide Test, yet their irresponsible, overconfident and brash stroke play suggested otherwise. Poor shot selection compounded by epic brain fades caused the downfall of many batsmen in this Indian side, resulting in them gifting their wickets cheaply to an Aussie outfit desperate to show their country that they had changed for the better. Australia bowled well with much pace, aggression and accuracy, but even they will agree that it was definitely the visitors that got themselves out on Day 1. As India stumbled to five for 86 with a long tail to follow, Tim Paine could be seen licking his lips at the prospect of bundling out the tourists for under 150. As the Bollywood beats faded quicker than India’s hopes, one man stood firm. One man refused to give in. One man decided he would not allow his team to follow a narrative they had been accustomed to for so long on Aussie soil. They call him Cheteshwar Pujara, the new wall of India. Pujara was sublime, stoic and erudite in his innings. India needed someone to stand up and hold the fort as wickets continued to tumble like nine pins. Pujara answered the call handsomely. While his fellow countrymen lunged greedily at the wide full balls offered by Mitchell Starc and friends, Pujara simply said, “Nope. Goodbye off drive. Goodbye cover drive. Hello discipline. Hello patience. Let’s dig in for a long one”. And dig in he did. The on-drive and flick soon became his most productive shots as he waited sensibly for the ball to enter his zone for a scoring opportunity. Pujara’s foundation was built session by session as he accumulated the deliveries and soaked in the sapping conditions. He was immovable, defiant and unforgiving in his bat-a-thon, causing Australia to wait hungrily for a chance to attack the lesser batsman at the other end. At one point he was 19 off 90 balls, and it was obvious that he was not going to leave anytime soon. The man himself later admitted that it took him two whole sessions work out how to bat on the Adelaide pitch, and thankfully his graft breathed new life into an otherwise hapless Indian first innings. As Pujara’s yogic powers of concentration continued to grow, it was clear that the memory of another great Indian legend was manifesting himself in this defiant performance. Could Pujara be the Rahul Dravid for his generation? Given this hundred, his batting style and even the statistics and past performances, there is certainly enough evidence to show that this could be a possibility. Pujara is no stranger to playing the Mr Dependable role for his country, and he has done so on more than one occasion throughout his relatively young career. Back in November 2012, in the second Test match against England at Mumbai, India were once again reeling at five for 119, with Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, a young Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh all back in the shed for not much. The latter had been castled for a duck by Graeme Swann too. Pujara came in, assessed the situation and applied supreme discipline to grind his team out of a hole to a respectable first innings score of 327. He scored a phenomenal 135 off a mind-boggling 350 balls at a monk-like strike rate of just 38.27. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, they say; though on this occasion it wasn’t enough to grant India a victory. The great wall of Pujara would again show his powers against Sri Lanka in August 2015 in the third Test at Colombo. With the visitors teetering at seven for 180, Pujara’s unbeaten 145 off 289 balls arrested the momentum back India’s way, lifting them to 312. He had scored over 45 per cent of the team total by himself, a monumental effort that secured India the win and ultimately the series. England once again witnessed another Pujara epic in August of this year at Southampton in the final Test. Sweating it out, Pujara prospered with yet another gutsy unbeaten 132 off 257 balls to take India to 273 after they had earlier fallen to eight for 195. It just goes to show how tough, patient and mentally strong Pujara is; it almost seems as though he was made to bat in these situations, further likening this possible comparison to the great Rahul Dravid. Even on a statistical level there are some uncanny developments in Pujara’s career that continue to draw a strong similarity to Dravid. Pujara is currently 30 years old and has 16 Test hundreds to his name. Rahul Dravid at 30 also had 16 Test hundreds to his name. It took 67 innings for Dravid to reach 3000 Test runs, 84 innings to reach 4000 and 108 innings to hit 5000 runs. As Pujara crossed the 5000 mark with his first Test century Down Under, the number of innings taken for him to reach those previous milestones follows this exact same parable. Truly remarkable. So it begs the question: Will Pujara one day grow into a batsman of a calibre akin to the mighty Rahul Dravid? With his traditional Test match batting style, exceptionally calm temperament and supreme powers of concentration, it now remains highly likely. With a healthy Test match batting average at a tick over 50, there are strong signs that we will witness further great innings from him, ensuring that the great wall of India continues to build well into the 21st century. Dravid will certainly be pleased.
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