“He is an unbelievable cricketer”
Nathan Lyon responded when asked about Cheteshwar Pujara at the end of Day 2 in Indore. Yes, Lyon was the star of the day with 8/64 but Pujara’s 142-ball 59 frustrated the Aussies on what was another good day for them. Had it not been for Pujara, India would have folded much sooner and the Test could have been wrapped inside the two days. Pujara battled and this knock served as a reminder that he still has enough fuel in the tank.
When he walked out to bat at 15/1 in the fifth over, India were left with a mountain to climb. They first had to wipe off the deficit and then put on enough runs on the board to challenge Australia on a wearing fourth-inning track. None happened as the hosts’ batters fell one after the another and none applied themselves like Pujara did. However, all the drama from his and the opposite end didn’t affect Pujara’s plans one bit as he seemed very determined and had the monk switched on.
Also Read | India vs Australia: Lyon Roars in Indore, Preys on Indian Batting
Pujara may look ugly but he knows how to get the job done in testing conditions. Today was no different. He would prod forward, rush to the backfoot, make the late adjustment with the face of the bat while defending and not once did he shy away from using his feet to get to the pitch of the ball. Not many instances of being the muse to the photographers, but certainly many to keep the visitors frustrated. He puts a price on his wicket and continues to trust his defence even on the most challenging surfaces. For him, it’s simple – defence is the best way to defend.
“He doesn’t have the big reverse-sweeps or all that but one thing he does have is unbelievable defence. And in my eyes, Test cricket is all about defence. Hats off to him to show his class on a challenging pitch,” Lyon echoed similar sentiments.
Cheteshwar Pujara is an unbelievable cricketer. Bounce in Gabba or turn here, nothing affects him. He has unbelievable defence. Test cricket is all about defence : Nathan Lyon #INDvAUS @cricketnext— Sahil Malhotra (@Sahil_Malhotra1) March 2, 2023
The gritty right-hander manages to find a way when the chips are down and steers the ship out of choppy waters more often than not. Over the years, especially the last tour to Australia, he had an aggressor in Rishabh Pant at the other end to bulk of the scoring but Pujara ensured to hold one end up. If the body was put on the line at The Gabba last Australian summer, the supple wrists and excellent footwork came to his rescue in spinning Indore.
Trust the defence
“I have got a lot of respect for the way he goes about it. If it’s bouncing back at The Gabba or spinning here in Indore, he finds a way and a method. As I said last week during his 100th Test, a lot of guys and girls can watch how he goes about batting and learn from him,” said Lyon while lavishing praise on Pujara.
Even on a pitch like this, Pujara seemed largely in control. He trusted his defence and knew the balls and lengths to put away. It seemed he had forgotten that he has a bat in hind because he explored unimaginable angles, as if batting with a whip. He would step out to deliveries where line allowed to free his arms and stayed back to the shortish ones directed at his body. Results on both occasions were runs as the drives and the whips injected a lot of energy into the crowd which really got behind the hosts during that period where Shreyas Iyer was blazing away and Pujara kept the scoreboard ticking.
Also Read | Cheteshwar Pujara an Unbelievable Cricketer, Nothing Affects Him: Nathan Lyon
Pujara vs Australia
There have been countless times Pujara has stood between Australia and sheer domination like a rock. Yes, a rock because The Wall is sitting in the Indian dressing room as the head coach. In home conditions, Pujara has played 12 matches vs Australia and scored 998 runs at a brilliant average of 55.44. Away from home, he has managed 993 runs in 11 games. The average dips slightly from the home figure but remains a healthy 47.28.
He enjoys a lot of respect in the opposition camp and the same was visible from Lyon’s press conferences in both Delhi and Indore. Even other players have lauded his grit to fight and succeed on difficult surfaces.
And even on Thursday, on one of the trickier surfaces he would have played in recent times, it took a blinder at leg-slip to end his stay in the middle. It wasn’t a delivery scooting low, rising sharply or turning square. But a misdirected fullish-length ball which was worked fine off the pads only to be grabbed by Steve Smith in stunning fashion. Catch of the series helped Australia see the back of Pujara and have a target within the reach.
Plenty in both home and away dressing room will use this knock as the manual to succeed on turning pitches. For the rest, it was a reminder, a stern one, that Pujara is not done yet!
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