India vs Australia | Takeaways: Cheteshwar Pujara’s phenomenal change and illogical criticism of Australian bowlers

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India vs Australia | Takeaways: Cheteshwar Pujara’s phenomenal change and illogical criticism of Australian bowlers

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Bastab K Parida

01/04/2019

Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant’s two big centuries helped India get a total of 622/7 in the first innings and that may result in an innings victory for the visitors. While many things went in India’s favour, the legends of the game criticizing the Aussie pacers was devoid of any sort of logic.

Sydney doesn’t mirror the true quality of Australian bowlers

On paper, a bowling line up of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, and Nathan Lyon is potent enough to restrict any batting line-up. Last year, their collective bowling average in the Ashes was 29.15, and if you take the ongoing Sydney Test out, then their average this series was 27.80. Was it a bad one? Of course not. However, the same Shane Warne, who came forward and praised them for their superb bowling against England last year, didn’t leave any stone unturned to bash them on air. The question is, aren’t they statistically almost the same in this Test series, if not better? 

The point that Warne made in his stint at the Fox Sports commentary box is valid only if you compare that to India’s pace attack of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, and Mohammad Shami, which have created a reputation for themselves by being the most fearsome and highly effective bowling unit in the world at the moment. Also, the point must not be forgotten that India has two of the best batsmen of the modern-day Test cricket - Kohli and Pujara - and bowling to them is not the same as bowling to a Shaun Marsh or a Travis Head. When we say that Australian bowlers are not being able to find reverse swing, the question, we should ask ourselves - did Indian bowlers get anything in the first three Tests? 

Of course, Australian bowlers underperformed in the Sydney Test and deserved to be called out. But the sense of fragility towards them and asking them to pull up stunning performances in every single Test, just because your two best batsmen are absent, doesn’t make any cricketing sense. It is their mistakes in Sydney, but criticism must have some context.

Cheteshwar Pujara - a phenomenon

“If Dravid was the wall, then Pujara was the foundation” - an enthusiastic cricket fan tweeted after Cheteshwar Pujara came down the track to hit Nathan Lyon for a four to cross the 150-run mark today. It was a cracking shot, one that we don’t associate with Pujara that often. But how has he transformed himself to a tour de force of such audacity in this series?

India recieved a lot of flak after dropping him for the Edgbaston Test against England, but that made Pujara even stronger. While the India No.3's issues against short balls were more prominent than moving balls, he had considerable problems while facing balls that landed on good lengths, and Cricviz backs it up. Before the Edgbaston Test, Pujara averaged only 10.55 against those balls in the SENA countries, which was a complete contrast to his approach against the other types of deliveries. However, since that Test, it is not just his failure against good length balls, but his average in SENA countries also increased from 28.89 to 37.33. So what brought success to him after his drop from the first Test against England? Couldn’t just be a mental side of things, for sure.

While Virat Kohli is striking the ball on average 2.2m away from his stumps to negate the swing and Rahane is opting to sit back and play on backfoot, Pujara did neither and decided to play the balls into different areas of the ground. During his knock of 193 runs, Pujara made sure that he scores run when the ball was on his pads and was cautious when the ball was outside off - a different approach that the past. His feet movement against the spinners was the stuff dreams are made up and before the ball, he got out, there was not a single chance conceded. Pujara hasn’t done any spectacular change to his style, but rather he has made sure that he wouldn’t do the same mistake that had cost him earlier. With the realisation of that, Pujara became a Test match phenomenon.

Ravindra Jadeja proves why he can become a proper overseas all-rounder

When Ravindra Jadeja drove a ball to long-on for a four to bring his 10th Test fifty, you must have expected the trademark sword celebration. As he swerved his bat proudly like a warrior as he always does to a standing ovation, India remained in a happy space. Six months ago, Jadeja had carved a cavalier half-century and unleashed his waving-the-sword celebrations to a standing ovation at The Oval in a non-consequential match, but proved that he had it in him to be a genuine Test all-rounder in overseas conditions.

In England, Indian pacers were amazing at their job, but at various stages of the game, the likes of Sam Curran and Chris Woakes erased all the excitement constructed by India's fast bowlers, while their own lower order had shown a weak spine. Today was an exception. India’s top order fired and made sure that a repeat of Sydney 2004 was well within the reach. With Pant making noise and Australians fighting inner demons, Jadeja couldn’t have asked for anything better. He came and dominated, but that was characterised by patience and shot selection when Pant was firing. After Tea, he had to accelerate and made sure that India had a mammoth 622 runs on the board. 

It was a pretty good inning but may not find many takers for the future. But as far as his own development goes, everyone will remember that he is a cricketer who played with maturity. The innings made sure that India may not have to come back again for bowling in the second innings. This is exactly what India missed out in the past and shouldn’t lose out next time.

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