25 November 2017 05:44 AM

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PARTAB RAMCHAND | 9 NOVEMBER, 2017

Pujara is Class Without the Glitz!

Pujara is Class Without the Glitz!


Away from the glitz and glamour of the international limited overs game Indian cricket’s most unassuming player is still having the spotlight turned on him by breaking a famous 70-year-old first class record.

Like Rahul Dravid, Cheteshwar Pujara has been India’s go to man in a crisis. But he is a Test specialist and so is talked about only when the team plays the traditional format. However in breaking a record held by no less a batsman like Vijay Merchant Pujara has proved that it is not only his imperious deeds in Test matches that attract attention but also his stupendous feats at the first class level.

First class matches do not have the aura that is associated with international ties particularly those of the shorter formats of the game. But it is a tribute to Pujara that he takes every game seriously. Dedicated to the game and professional to the core he gives off his best whether it is India or his IPL franchisee, Nottinghamshire or Saurashtra.

The result is a record that is of the eye rubbing and mind boggling variety. In 258 first class innings he has notched up 42 hundreds including 12 double hundreds and a highest score of 352. His average of 56.89 puts him in the top dozen in the history of first class cricket among those who have topped 10,000 runs.

There is no higher tribute to Pujara than to point out that his figures compare favourably with the legendary Merchant who was a veritable run machine in the thirties and forties astonishing everyone with his powers of concentration, impeccable technique and the ability to play a long innings. Merchant’s average of 72.56 is second only to that of Don Bradman (95.14) and he amassed 13,207 runs from 228 innings with 44 hundreds and a highest score of 359 not out.

To date Pujara has scored 12,745 runs and it was Merchant’s long standing record of eleven double hundreds – the most by an Indian in first class cricket – that Pujara surpassed while getting 204 in the Ranji Trophy game against Jharkhand a few days ago. Among Indian batsmen, other than Merchant, only Ajay Sharma, Vijay Hazare and Sachin Tendulkar have a higher career average.

In these days of reverse sweeps, switch hits, dilscoops and helicopter shots it is heartening to know that there are batsmen like Pujara who still swear by the text book approach. I have nothing against the other innovative shots and they have a place in a changing game and an environment eager for entertainment. But entertainment can come in many ways and the chiselled strokes of Pujara in a way constitute the highest art form in the game.

With all the innovations that batsmen like MS Dhoni, Kevin Pietersen and Tillekeratne Dilshan have brought to the game can there be a more ethereal sight than that of the famous photograph taken by Herbert Fishwick that has Walter Hammond playing the perfect cover drive in 1928?

Pujara has that stroke in his vast repertoire besides of course all the other strokes prescribed in the coaching manual that would make the purists’ eyes sparkle with delight. Yes, even in these days of slam bang cricket there is place for a classical stylist like Pujara. Besides that as is well known he is Indian cricket’s crisis man just as his predecessor at No 3, Rahul Dravid was. When Dravid retired the hearts of the Indian cricket fans were filled with trepidation. Could the legend’s place ever be filled they asked their minds filled with anxiety.

But they need not have worried. In his first innings for India at No 3 even as Dravid was still around Pujara hit a stroke filled 72 to steer his team to a seven wicket victory over Australia in 2010 and it was quickly obvious that once the great man called it a day the team had a ready and more than adequate replacement.

Over the years Pujara has grown in stature and this is best underlined by figures. In 51 Tests he has got 13 hundreds, three of them doubles, at an average of 52.65. He has already crossed the 4000-run mark and at 29 he still has many years of cricket ahead of him. Given his age old qualities of dedication, determination and concentration it can safely be said that his best is yet to come and that is heartening news for Indian cricket.

In the meantime even as he waits to play in the Test matches against Sri Lanka and South Africa with the Ranji trophy season in full swing he will undoubtedly continue to break more records in first class cricket.

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