India v England, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 1st day

Pujara dance leaves England in the dark

Nimble feet in defence and attack have been the key feature of Cheteshwar Pujara's immaculate series so far

Sidharth Monga

November 23, 2012

Comments: 30 | Text size: A | A

Cheteshwar Pujara got past 100 for the second time in the series, India v England, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 1st day, November 23, 2012
England's bowler have yet to dismiss Cheteshwar Pujara over 235.2 overs of cricket © BCCI

Cheteshwar Pujara has now spent all but 30.1 overs of this series on the field. Of that he has been at the wicket for 235.2 overs - close to 15 hours - without getting dismissed, for 361 runs. England could well be looking for Lord Relator to write a new Calypso for him.

R Ashwin, who has played a lot of domestic cricket against Pujara and who added an unbeaten 97 with him today, was later asked to reveal the secret of how to get Pujara out. Ashwin wasn't about to. All he said was "lbw".

In this form, though, forget about getting Pujara lbw. Looking at the number of times he has left the crease to play the spinners, Pujara has hardly locked himself up in order to stay in the house. The spinners will need to pin him down first. This is what stood out first about Michael Clarke and his batting against spin. Clarke had grown up batting that way in Sydney, and he did the same on debut in Bangalore.

Incidentally, Pujara too made his debut at the same ground, with Clarke in opposition. And Pujara had every reason to mistrust that pitch, and his own fate. After years of hard work, when his chance finally arrived, it took only three balls for a grubber to hit the stumps boot high. In the second innings, though, promoted to No. 3, he charged down to the first ball of spin he faced in Test cricket. Off the first six balls of spin he faced in his career, he took 10 runs by jumping out of the crease and without lofting the ball at all. He went on to help India complete a tricky chase successfully.

Three hundreds later, we have seen enough of Pujara to know that if he is in form, he will not let spinners bowl to a rhythm they want to bowl to. He will keep leaving the safe confines of the crease to get to the pitch of the ball. Not to loft the ball, but to drive it along the ground or push it around or even defend it. It is easy to say that to get to the pitch of the ball is the best way to play spin, but that's all it is. Easy to say.

To do it 'Pujara style' takes not only skill, but also clarity of thought, courage and confidence in your own game. It's almost like jumping off a plane with the tug on the parachute bag in a new location every time. You jump out of the crease just as the ball is about to leave the bowler's hand. A second earlier, and the bowler can adjust the delivery. A second too late, and you can be too late, thus struggling to reach the pitch of the ball. Even if you time the move to perfection, you leave yourself open to all sorts of possibilities, with just a four-inch-wide piece of wood and your own front leg to counter them. The ball can be shorter than you expect, it can be wider, and it can behave funny after pitching.

Pujara is not the first batsman to do it successfully and as regularly as he does, nor is stepping out the only trick that he employs. Today, he swayed out of the line of the bouncers beautifully, just the thing to do in the subcontinent where the ball can stay low and hit you when trying to duck. He judged the shorter length from spinners to perfection, and went back and punched on either side of the pitch.

"The amount of times he trusted his defence and kept on defending was brilliant," Ashwin said of Pujara's effort. "It eased the nerves as I went into bat. He was defending beautifully."

To have scored 361 runs without getting dismissed, over three innings, you have to be doing many things right, but it is Pujara's leaving of the crease that is exhilarating to watch. Especially on a pitch with enough turn and bounce to make the best of them fumble and grope in darkness. What makes it even more special is that he kept doing it even with wickets falling at the other end. And he does it in a controlled manner: despite that movement the head remains stable and on the ball, he is never looking for any wild shots. Moreover, it is hard to remember any instances of his panicking or coming close to missing the ball with that safe box behind him.

Ashwin said Pujara doesn't deal in small hundreds. If he does go on to turn this too into a big one, look at those feet more closely.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 13:11 GMT)

Just imagine, what would have been India's plight in this series, if the selectors had kept Pujara out, the way they continue keep Rahane out. I fully concur with what leslie_alo said in his post, about Rahane. The quality of Rahane's techniques and temperament is quite comparable to that of Pujara, though different in many ways. Rahane,for example, plays mostly from within the crease. Started stepping out more, after joining his IPL team. Rahane should replace Gambhir, in the next two tests. And, Gambhir should be sent back to domestic cricket to regain form (and some humility)

Posted by Patchmaster on (November 24, 2012, 9:18 GMT)

In two matches Flower has made two selection mistakes - he picked Broad to play in both matches.

Posted by Solid_Snake on (November 24, 2012, 8:21 GMT)

Only Pujara stood up to the England bowlers.. 5 batsmen couldnt even cross the double figure.What just happened to the great Indian batting line up.and on top of that it was India's home ground..What a performance by Indian batsmen

Posted by truthfinder on (November 24, 2012, 6:39 GMT)

Contrary to popular belief spread out by AUS/ENG media, Michael Clarke is not really a very good player of spin bowling. He didn't get much success against India, Pakistan and SriLanka in subcontinent. The very first innings being mentioned here was more of a shock and Indian spinners not quite planned for a 4th down new comer. In the subsequent innings he could not score well. Something similar to Adam Gilchrist who played a match winning century in the first innings in 2001 series and could not reach even 10 subsequently. Against Pakistan, Sri lanka and even Ashes Clarke's performances were pathetic while true batting against spin was needed. Scoring against SA rollers like Imran Tahir, Harris is not example of expertise of spin bowling. Comparing Pujara's (and Any Indian middle order batsman in that respect) spin playinability to Clarke (and any AUS/SA batsmen) is a big JOKE. Indian batters are the ultimate players of spin bowling, SA/AUS/UK batters are not even novices w.r.t them

Posted by Percy_Fender on (November 24, 2012, 4:43 GMT)

Incidentally,the Don played almost all his tests in England and Australia. So Pujara's task is that much more difficult. He has to prove himself against good bowling the world over. Given his humility and penchant for practice, I think he will come through everywhere. He needs a good county stint. I hope Sussex beckons. They have an illustrious line of Indians who played for them. Ranji, Duleep,Tiger Pataudi all played for them. And now is the time to blood Rahane in the middle order. He is another technical whizkid and a batsman for the big scores. Indian cricket will start looking up from now on I believe. Probably more than it did in the earlier generation.

Posted by baranasai on (November 24, 2012, 3:21 GMT)

I think Pujara pulled Indians out of the disaster.even now Indians are not out of the difficulties LIke(SA) they should score atleast 450 and then only they can defend for you dont expect the tallented English batsman to sit and watch /who knows when Peterson volcano will erupt and who knows when Ian bell will score his century -so Unless Indian Firest nnings score is really high above 450 the England has upper hand- After 3 rd day If indians bat they may not score well in second innings especially Ghambir SRT and others.Let Indian team cross the danger first by scoring heavily then we start thinking about counter atack

Posted by usernames on (November 24, 2012, 3:20 GMT)

@leslie_alo -- Exactly. The world hasn't seen anything. Rahane has an equally good temperament, and a better technique. Not taking anything away from Pujara, he has been as stunning as anyone can expect him to be.

Posted by   on (November 24, 2012, 2:12 GMT)

Pujara has passed his first test, which is to score in home conditions. Now, it will be interesting to see how he fares outside of subcontinent.

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on (November 24, 2012, 0:44 GMT)

@Bilal94, as my screen name suggests, I'm a staunch admirer of Dravid. But, let us meet here again on Cricinfo in 10 years time. You will know that Pujara is better than his idol Dravid. His skill, soft hands and patience are there for everyone to see. I've been following Pujara closely in the domestic circuit for nearly 5 years and I'm more than convinced that he is the rarest of rare geniuses in the Dravid mould and even better than Dravid.

Posted by Silverbails on (November 24, 2012, 0:18 GMT)

Great stuff, Pujara! He could be the perfect replacement for the legendary Dravid...only time will tell. If he can perform as well overseas (and the indications are that me may well!) then the replacement will be complete. That will be the acid test, and IF he can help India win as many Tests as Rahul did for India over the years, then India will have, at long last, uncovered a new batting star in the mould of "The Wall"!! Let's hope that Ashwin and Harbie can rout England, and take a 2 - 0 lead...

Posted by JustIPL on (November 23, 2012, 23:28 GMT)

Nampally, No doubt Pujara has been prominent since childhood and I have heard many things about him. Kohli is certainly good but others you mentioned are tried and tested but had very little impact. It is natural as greats like 10D, VVS, RD, Viru made India test champion by facing aussies for long time and not filling those greats is getting difficult as it happened to west indies, aussies, SA. It is not that easy to replace great guns for any team. Furthermore, declaring them as great players just after home series is not sane. Team has to be strong to take full home advantage otherwise bangladesh, zim, wi can win home series easily.

Posted by   on (November 23, 2012, 22:59 GMT)

Based on present form even Ashwin can replace Tendulkar at no 4 , sorry master you have played enough you have done us proud , but there are lots of young players like Rahane and Tiwary waiting on the wings , who need to be groomed for the future.

Posted by   on (November 23, 2012, 22:45 GMT)

He is without a doubt going to become the worlds greatest batsman in years to come. I have a reputation of picking great batsman before most people realize it. Inzamam, Damian Martyn, Ross taylor, Thorpe to name a few. But this guy Pujara is destined for greatness and it is my firm belief his record and consistency will rival that of even the likes of Bradman, Gavaskar, Border, Lara and SRT. We are seeing something special here the birth of the worlds greatest batsman for many years to come.

Posted by rammy11 on (November 23, 2012, 22:04 GMT)

@SRT_best_with_vivdonsobers : Dude, the phrase "spent on the field" always include total time for which one has spent on the ground.It can be anything...viz., bowling, batting or fielding. @ Nikhil Hussain : Its 30.1 overs..the only time in which Pujara was out of the field was when Gambhir and Sehwag were batting together. Except for those 30.1 overs, he spent his entire time on the field.

Posted by   on (November 23, 2012, 21:50 GMT)

@Nikhil Hussain, look care fully its not hours but overs , apart frolm 30 overs which indian openers managed to stay at the wicket in the first test, pujara has been on the field, either as batsman or as fielder.

Posted by randomhashref on (November 23, 2012, 21:34 GMT)

@Nikhil Hussain: nopes... May be the time he spent also counts to 30 overs in field. But what Sidd Monga claims is right.... He spent all but 30.1 overs. which is the time spent by Sehwag and Gambhir without Pujara in the field... Except those 30.1 overs, Pujara spent all the remaining time of this whole series as of now, on the field either by batting, or in runner end or was fielding. @SRT_best_with_vivdonsobers: There are no factual errors. For 235 overs, he was either batting or at runner's end.. What monga claims here is, he spent 235 overs without loosing the wicket.. even while at runner's end, a batsman is prone to get loose his wicket... These stats are mentioned in simplest terms, just to get the aw-factor on pujara'a efforts....

Posted by   on (November 23, 2012, 21:10 GMT)

We need rohit Sharma to replace SRT and chand for GG and Tiwari / rahane for yuvi....... Would nt that be a good team except the fct that entire team consists of right handed players .....

Posted by   on (November 23, 2012, 20:10 GMT)

Pujara's temperament and footwork stand out. Ashwin looks good enough for No: 6 - then India can play 5 bowlers.

Posted by Bilal94 on (November 23, 2012, 20:06 GMT)

Easy there @ Dravid_Gravitas.Dravid didn't became the Wall in mere 7 tests.Pujara has to maintain his performance for atleast 30-40 tests and most of all perform Overseas.Untill then,Pujara can't touch Dravid

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (November 23, 2012, 19:51 GMT)

Well done, Pujara!! This is what I was talking about - there's no shortage of talent in India. There many more gems like Pujara and Kohli waiting to be discovered. We need to drop non-performers like 10dulkar and Gambhir and give a chance to promising youngsters like Rahane, Dhawan, Mukund, Pandey, Tiwary, etc. Kaif is looking in good form in Ranji Trophy. He can be a good replacement for 10dulkar.

Posted by   on (November 23, 2012, 18:26 GMT)

Cheteshwar Pujara has now spent all but 30.1 overs of this series on the field. It is not 'overs, but 'hours'.

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on (November 23, 2012, 17:56 GMT)

If Cook's last inning was a masterclass to his teammates on how to play spin on slow turning pitch, this innings of Pujara is a masterclass to all the batsmen in the world on how to play spin on a fast turning and bouncing pitch. Just take a bow! A new Dravid, or better than Dravid, has arrived. His soft hands will keep him safe if and when he misreads the length or turn of the delivery. Great skill. Great temperament.

Posted by AvidCricFan on (November 23, 2012, 17:09 GMT)

If the selection is right, India has enough depth in new talent to replace the fame batting line up. It is unfortunate that Pujara had to wait to cement his position in the team. However, it is refreshing to see new talent raise up to occasion. Three to four spots need to be opened up for the new talent. Gambhir and Tendulkar's time is up. They have not performed for close to 10 matches. Get Rahane and Tiwari in their places.

Posted by vinaykmr on (November 23, 2012, 17:08 GMT)

today' turning track which started turning from day 1 n also morning help to pacers still didnt deter pujara in anyway. thats a sign of good maturity that he has n symptom that he is going to prosper even on pacer friendly wkts overseas. pujara has genuine technique to prosper even in overseas (which he has already done even during ind's A tours).

Posted by Nampally on (November 23, 2012, 17:03 GMT)

Pujara is like Michael Clarke in consistency. Clarke foiled S.African bowlers twice with 2 double centuries in a row in the first 2 Tests. Can Pujara repeat that feat? Yes he can - if Ashwin stays with him at the other end. Pujara has become the sheet anchor of the Indian batting. He succeeded where Tendulkar, Gambhir, Kohli & Yuvraj failed collectively. India owes a lot to this young man who was deprived of his chances even after his brilliant debut Vs. Aussies in Test match 2 year ago. How can Rohit Sharma gets preferred to Pujara for so long with so little output, begs the question of Selectors capability. Strangely Pujara had to come in thru' India A route! Tiwary is another batsman who scores runs but is left cooling his heals.How can India include Harbhajan as a second off spinner in this test match instead of a right arm leg spinner? Tiwary could have filled in this spot + boost batting. Pujara, Kohli &Tiwary are the future of Indian batting.Wake up MSD & Selectors-Be visionary!

Posted by BSWadekar on (November 23, 2012, 17:01 GMT)

Another Bradman coming in tests. Ya, I'm serious. But he must perform outside subcontinent also. If he performs welll against Dale Steyn in South Africa, James Pattinson in Australia, Steve Finn in England then surely he is not next Bradman but first Pujara.

Posted by leslie_alo on (November 23, 2012, 16:45 GMT)

Ok, good that we recognized the talent in Pujara though better late than never. He actually started piling up runs in Ranji so much so that the wise men could no longer ignore him. Beleive it or not, the next guy whom the wise men have been ignoring for long time now is Rahane. By not rewarding him with a test cap, India is losing hundreds of runs already and missing the peak time of a player's career. He has already proved himself in the bounciest pitches of Australia also. Let him be rewarded else we will rue the same way later. It is an easy guess that some people just dont want to give him a break because of the simple reason that some other players will just lose their positions once and for all, mind you - thats what his stats speaks now!

Posted by Aristotle01 on (November 23, 2012, 16:45 GMT)

There are so many factual errors . First, Pujara has not batted for 235 overs! What non-sense! 235 overs equals to 1410 deliveries! he surely has not faced that many balls this series.... he has only faced about 750 of them... do you gys mean he has spent 235 overs in the field (batting and fielding)?? please please be more specific. The stats in the first line regarding the no. of overs he has been out out on the field for are extremely misleading and can be looked upon as unreal as noone can face face 235 overs in just 3 inns. Please correct this.

Posted by Tapob on (November 23, 2012, 16:36 GMT)

Hi, Just a small correction required. 206+41+114= 361 and not 326 as mentioned in this article. Thanks!

Posted by baranasai on (November 23, 2012, 16:28 GMT)

This is another wonderful century from this young man.I was dreading who will replace the experienced player like Dravid-it is certainly Pujara atleast for now in this series. I feel Ajyinka Rahane is another better player waiting to get in -if he gets in the chance he will join with Kohli and Pujara to strenegthen the middle order. Common SRT we want a master class from you too sooner than later -in BOmbay itself.

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