The rise of Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara’s name is synonymous with Test cricket.
Pujara, who has a batting style similar to the legendary Rahul Dravid, proved that he can adapt to T20 cricket as well during his classy 51 for the Royal Challengers Bangalore against the Kings XI Punjab during an IPL game at Mohali.
An integral part of India’s recent 4-0 test whitewash of the Aussies at home, Pujara has been touted as Dravid’s successor after scoring 493 runs at an average of 83.80 in that memorable series. His classy 204, replete with technically correct shots in the Hyderabad test brought back memories of Dravid batting in his prime. Though Pujara denies being anywhere near Dravid in terms of the latter’s cricketing abilities, scoring 1180 runs in 13 tests for India surely speaks volumes of his talent.
Pujara was coached by father Arvind, a former Saurashtra cricketer, from the age of 8 at the Railway Grounds in Rajkot. A stint with Karsan Ghavri’s cricket academy in Mumbai helped Pujara develop himself as a specialist batsman, with Ghavri marking out Pujara as a future talent to be reckoned with.
His first significant knock in age group cricket came in 2000-01 when he scored a massive 306* against Baroda in West Zone’s U-14 tournament. Pujara stayed at the crease for 516 minutes during that marathon knock and created a national record.
But his most cherished memory has to be the 2005 Hill Shield Tournament, when he cracked 4 centuries in 5 matches and led his school Rameshbhai Chhaya (Rajkot) to the title.
More success followed for Pujara after he graduated to First Class cricket in late 2005, as he scored runs by the dozen for Saurashtra (6440 runs in 79 matches) and was soon being considered as a future India prospect by the selectors.
Pujara made his Test debut for India against Australia in the 2010 Bangalore Test but couldn’t build on it in South Africa. Put out of action due to an injury, he was sorely missed in India’s tours to West Indies, England and Australia in 2011-12 where batting failures led to poor results.
He made a cracking return in the home series against New Zealand in 2012, was the lone bright spot in India’s home loss against England and proved his consistency by dominating the Australians in 2013. He even showed how easily he could switch gears to pile up big scores in a hurry, prompting the selectors to name him in the ODI squad to face England.
Blessed with nimble footwork, solid technique and a wonderful mind for the game, Pujara is a batsman in the classic mould, playing the waiting game, and is equally adept off both the front and backfoot.
Fondly nicknamed ‘Chintu’ by his teammates, Pujara is also a voracious reader and loves playing video games.
For a boy who aspired to play cricket for India, Pujara certainly has come a long way in his career so far and hopes to reach even greater heights in the years to come by.
Till then India may just look upon the ‘New Dravid’ in the making!
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