Cheteshwar Pujara The Next Wall?

India is a country where cricketers are preached and the game itself is taken hand to hand. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are some of the few Indian cricketers who have contributed a lot for the gentleman’s game. These three are the real superstars of modern India and it is very difficult to find someone like them. With the retirement of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, every cricket devotee had one question. Who will replace ‘The Wall’ and Laxman? However, life doesn’t stop for anyone and it carries on with something in store for the future. Cheteshwar Pujara, the young lad from Saurashtra was given the responsibility to take Dravid’s batting position and boy his recent contributions suggest that he could fill the gap left by the maestro’s retirement. After making his Test debut in 2010, Pujara was sidelined due to freak knee injury in the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League. He made a comeback in last year’s domestic season but due to lack of match practice, Pujara couldn’t deliver much. Same was the case in the fifth edition of the cash rich league. However, his superb scores with India A on the tour of West Indies prompted his comeback in the Indian side and the rest is history. Since he was compared to the likes of Dravid and Very Very Special Laxman, it was pretty evident that he was made for the longest format of the game. Patience and technique are the two most important components required to excel in Test cricket and Pujara is blessed with both. Even after scoring tons of run in domestic cricket, Pujara had to wait a lot to plant his shoes in international cricket. The Indian team had quality players like Tendulkar, Laxman and Dravid, so there was hardly a chance for any upcoming lad to be a part of the Indian test team. Although he made his debut against the Aussies in 2010, he had just three Test matches to his name before the just concluded series against New Zealand. He immediately made an impact, scoring a match winning knock of 72 in the fourth innings of the second Test match against Australia in Bangalore. He played a classy inning, which was full of delightful strokes. By doing so, he became only the fifth Indian to score fifty or more in the fourth innings on debut. However, due to injury, patchy form and the presence of superstars, he had to wait a lot for the second chance. Things changed in his favor after India’s dismissal performance in England and Australia. After a disappointing series in Australia, Rahul Dravid decided to quit from the longest version of the game.

Not to forget, he was the lone warrior in India’s miserable series against England. Dravid scored three centuries against the English attack but a meager 194 runs in 8 innings against the Aussies in the next series forced him to make a way for the next generation batsman. ‘The Wall’ decided to hang his boots as he couldn’t meet the high standards he sets for himself. The Australia series raised questions over the future of many cricketers. But selectors decided to stick with their fallen stars in the next series against New Zealand. Laxman, who was there in the team for the Test matches against New Zealand, surprisingly announced his retirement from the game with immediate effect, a decision which opened the doors for Cheteshwar Pujara. The Indian southpaw justified his selection by scoring his maiden ton in the first innings of the first Test match at Hyderabad. Pujara also scored a fluent 48 in the fourth inning of the second Test match thus ensuring India’s clean sweep in the series. His exploits didn’t surprised many as it was just a matter of time that the 24  year old displays his talent. He has huge scores to his name in the domestic circuit and now he has officially announced his strong arrival at the big stage with some remarkable performance in the recently concluded Test series. He was the highest run getter, scoring 216 runs in the two Test matches at an average of 72.00. Pujara’s century in particular was of the highest quality. He was sent into bat at number three ahead of Virat Kohli, the same position where he scored 72 runs against the Aussies in 2010 and this time he made sure that he got a century to his name. It was an innings of style and maturity. With his technique and calmness, former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly and Sanjay Manjrekar couldn’t stop themselves from comparing Pujara as a best possible replacement for Rahul Dravid. He has age on his side to further improve upon his weakness and transform into a reliable number three batsman. His approach, focus and ability to construct and place an inning is going to hold him in good measures moving forward. Pujara can also switch gears almost at will which he showed in the series against New Zealand. Indubitably, it is too early to compare him with Rahul Dravid as this would fail to serve any purpose. Pujara has started his comeback trial in style and has laid the foundation for a long innings in international cricket, so let’s hail the man who can strengthen a Laxman and Dravid less batting lineup. However, it’s up to him to build on this initial success into a big one and carve a name for himself.

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