There was formerly a notion that India’s golden generation of players could never be replaced when they retired. People believed there was no replacement for Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag. While people have started comparing Virat Kohli to Sachin and started believing Ajinkya Rahane is the rightful heir of Laxman’s throne, Rahul Dravid’s replacement has yet to come to fruition.
While there can be no replica of those greats, one player has stepped up to call himself India’s New Mr. Dependable in Test Cricket, and he is none other than Cheteshwar Pujara. Pujara is very similar to Dravid, a man who wasn’t naturally gifted with lovely shots, but a man who had to graft for every run. Both number three batsmen, they provide a link to the top and middle order. People saw the future when Cheteshwar Pujara scored his maiden half-century when Rahul Dravid was approaching his final days in an Indian shirt.
Pujara has done it all. He has scored runs at every level, seen disappointment at every level, silenced critics whenever doubted. Pujara would get his maiden Test hundred against New Zealand in Hyderabad in 2012 and he hasn’t looked back since. For long it was believed that he, Rahane and Rohit Sharma were the next generation of the Indian middle order but it was Pujara who put his hands up first and grabbed the opportunity.
An old-fashioned player who loves to bat and bat, Pujara has stayed away from the enticing light of limited overs cricket. He has made the longest format his priority and he has not disappointed. His Test career has seen him score three double hundreds in just 79 innings, a career which has yielded 3741 runs @ 51.96.
He was dropped in the middle of the series vs West Indies last year due to a lack in form but has come back massively in this current home season. 1389 runs in 12 Tests @ 73.11 with five hundreds is proof of the man’s resilience. His resilience was seen in these last couple of days when Pujara produced a marathon, a marathon of 668 minutes for 202 runs off 525 balls which would become the most number of deliveries played by an Indian batsman in Test history, overtaking Rahul Dravid. It was an innings of grit, patience all made up of the man Pujara really is.
11 hundreds in 51 Tests is no small feat. In the era of beautiful batsman like Kohli and Rahane and Rahul, people tend to overlook the importance of Pujara, a man who is undoubtedly India’s best Test batsman presently. Cheteshwar Pujara really is India’s New Mr. Dependable.