Dubbed as the successor to Rahul Dravid, Cheteshwar Pujara had big boots to fill at no.3 position. But after playing 102 Test innings, he is averaging 50.71 with 15 centuries, which certainly isn’t bad by any means. Since his debut, the gritty right-hander has turned out to be one of the pillars of Indian batting. Pujara is a typical old-school Test batsman. He bases his game on virtues of patience, a solid defensive technique, and a temperament, par excellence. In an era, where flamboyance trumps everything, Pujara is an image of meditation on the 22 yards.
His brilliant century in the ongoing Southampton Test ensured that India didn’t lose the hard-earned momentum in a game that can decide the fate of the series.
Today, we will take a look at five best Test innings by Cheteshwar Pujara:
1.145* v Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2015
This is perhaps one of the most important centuries of Pujara’s Test career. After back-to-back poor away tours of New Zealand, England, and Australia, Pujara was dropped from the off-Test against Bangladesh in 2015. He was part of the squad for the subsequent tour of Sri Lanka but couldn’t find a place in the XI until the series decider in Colombo.
In this do-or-die match, Pujara was asked to open. And he made his comeback innings memorable by grinding an unbeaten 145 off 289 deliveries. It was a seaming deck and none of the top seven batsmen from India could even touch 30 run-mark barring Pujara. He led India to a very decent first innings total and after that what happened is history. India registered their first Test series win in Sri Lanka in 22 years. Pujara was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match.
2.132* v England, Southampton, 2018
Pujara had a terrible County season in lead up to this ongoing Test series between England and India. He was even dropped from the playing XI in the first Test at Lord’s. But cometh the fourth Test at Rose Bowl and Indian no.3 is the man of the moment with a brilliant 132. That’s the quality of the man. India were in a commanding position at one stage with 142 runs on board at the loss of two wickets. But very soon it turned into 195 for 8 and India’s hopes to stay in the series started evaporating. But Pujara along with the tail ensured India didn’t end up with a deficit and instead got the visitors a decent lead of 27 runs. It is perhaps the best of Pujara’s centuries given his travails outside Asia and India’s position in the series.
3.92 v Australia, Bengaluru, 2017
After a heavy defeat in the series opener, India was on back foot in Bangalore, when second innings started. India had a deficit of 87 runs on a pitch that had plenty for bowlers. It was a sort of wicket where a batsman never quite feels comfortable even after getting set. Pujara scored a remarkable 92, the highest individual score of the match. He deserved to reach the three figures but it wasn’t meant to be. Still given the context of the match and series, and also the quality of Australian bowling, it’s a knock that Pujara would cherish for a long-time.
4.202 v Australia, Ranchi, 2017
The third test match at Ranchi was nicely set-up after India made a roaring comeback in the second Test following a massive defeat in the first. Australia had made a mammoth first innings total of 451. But Pujara’s double-ton ensured India got over Australia’s first innings total. In fact, India got a very big lead of 152 runs. Pujara’s vigil at the crease lasted 525 deliveries and was a fair reflection of his unbreakable concentration, solid application, and brilliant temperament.
5.50 v South Africa, Johannesburg, 2018
This was another classic Pujara knock. The Saurashtra batsman could only manage 50 runs but it was worth more than that given the unplayable nature of the Wanderers pitch, which was deemed as dangerous by many cricket experts. Also, South Africa’s fiery pace battery comprising of Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Lungi Ngidi made batting even more difficult for the visitors. Apart from Pujara, only Kohli and Amla could reach the fifty run-mark in the game. Pujara faced 261 deliveries for this resilient 50 run-knock. India went on to win the game.