Away from the glitz and glamour of the IPL India’s sheet anchor plies his trade in the manner he knows best. Cheteshwar Pujara is most comfortable playing the game’s traditional format either Test matches or first class cricket. The Indian team is dependent on its No. 3 to hold the innings together and with the World Test Championship final against Australia at the Oval less than a month away it is heartening to know that not only is Pujara playing county cricket in England he is also in sterling form.

He is in fact captaining Sussex the county for which Ranji played and from all reports is doing a commendable job reflected in the county being in second position in the points table after four matches and as only to be expected he is leading from the front. Three centuries in four games against Durham, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire is encouraging news for his teammates who will no doubt hope that he is able to carry the form into the all-important Test starting on June 7.

But then coming good in English county cricket is not a new experience for Pujara. He is just continuing from where he left off last year when his stupendous form with the bat including a succession of centuries and double centuries for Sussex, had the critics raving about his insatiable appetite for runs, chiselled textbook strokes, impeccable technique and monk-like concentration.

Pujara has had a splendid Test record. It is not easy to step into the shoes of an iconic figure like Rahul Dravid but over the last 12 years he has been the glue that has held the batting together drawing favourable comparisons with his illustrious predecessor.

The stats against his name if not of the mind boggling and eye rubbing variety are impressive enough – 7154 runs from 102 Tests at an average of almost 44 with 19 hundreds.

In first class cricket though the 35-year-old righthander is nothing short of a legend. With 15 double hundreds Pujara has more such scores in first class cricket than any other Indian and the number puts him in the top ten double century makers in first class cricket.

A tally of over 19,000 runs at an average of 52 is outstanding but what really stands out is his penchant for big scores that has already seen him get 59 hundreds. He is fast closing in on Vijay Hazare’s tally of 60 hundreds, the third highest among Indians behind only Rahul Dravid (68) and the two who jointly hold the record Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar both of whom have crossed the three-figure mark 81 times. Pujara is also among the handful of Indian cricketers to have amassed a score of 350 plus – 352 to be precise.

During his third century of the season the other day Pujara became only the sixth Indian to cross the 19,000 run mark in first class cricket joining the ranks of Gavaskar, Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Wasim Jaffer. He has this knack of running into purple patches none more so than in the 2016-17 season when he amassed 2064 runs at an average of 82.56 with seven hundreds and a highest score of 256 not out – the record tally for an Indian.

It has not been all smooth sailing for Pujara. There have been times when the runs have dried up and he has had his share of criticism that he overdoes the defence allowing the bowlers to dictate terms. But he has always had the team’s interest uppermost in mind and when he is on song he is a purists’ delight bringing out all the strokes in the coaching manual.

Yes, even in these days of T-20 and T-10 there is a place for a classic stylist like Pujara. Overall if he were not successful he would not have lasted this long and with his qualities of dedication, determination and concentration Pujara can be counted upon to combine style and substance and guide the Indian team’s fortunes on his shoulders for at least a couple of years more.

For a start, if Pujara is among the runs in the WTC final India can reasonably hope to fare better than they did in the inaugural title clash two years ago when they went down to New Zealand by eight wickets. Australia too will be wary of Pujara for they know him to be a batsman who puts a price on his wicket and who comes off time and again when the going gets tough.

Indeed like all dependable players he is at his best against strong opposition especially Australia symbolised by the fact that he holds the Indian second wicket record of 370 runs along with Murali Vijay against the Aussies at Hyderabad in 2013. In fact Pujara has a particularly impressive record against Australia having notched up over 2000 runs in 24 Tests with five hundreds and an average of just over 50.

Nine of his 19 hundreds have been compiled away from India.

Interestingly both Pujara and Steve Smith are playing for Sussex and there was a brief while in the game against Worcestershire last week when the two batted together piecing together a fourth wicket partnership of 61 before the Australian was out for 30. Pujara went on to get 136 – his second hundred in successive matches.

Next month of course both will be opponents in the WTC final but before that the prospect of them figuring in two more matches for Sussex before that is a delicious one.