Cheteshwar Pujara is one of the finest batters in Test cricket and has contributed immensely to Indian cricket in the last decade or so. The veteran India batter has roared back into the side after some brilliant performances while playing for Sussex but can he repeat them for India against England?
Test cricket is the best format in the sport in the eyes of the purists. The name Test cricket itself is proof that the longest format of the game will "Test" the skills of all players involved in the game. For batters, it is a big Test of their skill and patience on days when the conditions are favourable for the bowlers. Spending long hours at the crease is an art that not many can master in a day and age where the formats are getting shorter and shorter.
However, there is one batter from India who is popularly known as a Test specialist and has done well in this format. The batter is none other than Cheteshwar Pujara and over the years, Pujara has been like a rock in the Indian batting line-up and has consistently done well for the team. The right-handed batter has given a number of performances when it comes to doing well for the Indian team. He has bailed India out of many difficult situations and helped the team script one of the most famous wins in Indian cricket history.
Pujara's journey, like any other cricketer, starts with domestic cricket in India. But unlike other batters, Cheteshwar Pujara has done brilliantly in domestic cricket as he has 17,668 runs from 231 games with an average of 51.81 and 54 centuries to his name. The rise of the young batter started after he made a name for himself in domestic cricket and with the legendary trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly stepping away from the game, India needed a solid middle-order in the coming years. Cheteshwar Pujara at number three was India's answer to the world as much like Dravid, he was a batter who provided much-needed stability in the middle order.
In his international career so far, Cheteshwar Pujara has played 95 matches and scored 6,713 runs with an average of 43.87. He has 18 centuries to his name along with 32 half-centuries.
In the last four years, Cheteshwar Pujara has not had the impact that he used to have. The senior Indian batter last scored a Test century back in 2019 against Australia. During the innings, Pujara scored 193 at the Sydney Cricket Ground which helped India win the game against the hosts. Since then, his form dipped and the batter was unable to play knocks that would help his side win. If you look at Cheteshwar Pujara's average in 2020 and 2021, you will see that it has dropped significantly. In 2020, he averaged 20.38 in the 4 matches that he played and in 2021, he played 14 games and could only average 28.08 which is not great when you look at a batter like him.
After his poor run with the bat, Pujara got dropped right before India's home series against Sri Lanka with Hanuma Vihari replacing him at the number three spot. Many felt that this was the end of the road for Cheteshwar Pujara and it was time for India to look at youngsters who have done well.
But, Cheteshwar Pujara went back to domestic cricket and played in the Ranji Trophy. During the tournament, he batted well and showed glimpses of his return to form. From there, the batter decided to play County cricket which was a turning point for the batter. The right-handed batter scored 720 runs from the 8 innings that he played with an average of 120.00.
The right-handed batter smashed four centuries during the tournament while playing for Sussex. The kind of form that Cheteshwar Pujara is in led to the world talk about him and made the Indian selectors take notice as well. The batter who was not in the scheme of things for the Indian team management was once again brought back in the side for the remaining Test match against England from last year.
With Cheteshwar Pujara returning to the side, India will be hoping that he can produce the same kind of magic which he has during the county season for Sussex. It is a well-known fact that it will not be easy to bat in English conditions for Indian batters but because Pujara has played in England for a long span of time during the summer, Rohit Sharma and his team management will be hoping that the veteran batter does well for the team.
Realistically speaking, Cheteshwar Pujara has done brilliantly in the county championship which means he is in really good form Batting in England is never easy, especially against a quality fast bowling attack like England's which boasts the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, etc who have troubled the Indian batters in the past.
In such a situation, India will need Cheteshwar Pujara to do well to ensure that his team can win the final match of the series and take win it with a margin of 3-1 which will be truly a historic moment in Indian cricket. The last time that India won a Test series against England was back in 2007 and will be hoping to repeat that moment.