India v West Indies, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 2nd day November 15, 2013

Rohit, Pujara impress with attitude and maturity

Rohit Sharma converted India's good position into an impregnable one, but the good position owed itself to Cheteshwar Pujara who kept doing his thing quietly while the attention was on Tendulkar

Rohit Sharma was on 96. He had been farming the strike in a 55-run last-wicket partnership until then. Mohammed Shami had scored just one of those 55. Such was Rohit's control of the strike. Now all nine men were back near the boundary. Rohit punched the third ball of a Shane Shillingford over straight to deep cover. And he set off. It was surprising because he had been taking singles only on the fourth ball of the previous overs or even later. Had the proximity to the hundred, which could be his second in as many Tests, got to Rohit?

No. Rohit had seen something we hadn't. The ball was hit towards Chris Gayle. In that split second, Rohit's mind calculated that he had played this towards the slowest man on the field, who would have had to come in a little to prevent the second. Gayle couldn't. And the next ball he placed for a single, leaving Shami only two to face. In those two balls, moving from 96 to 99, Rohit displayed his manoeuvring skills and confidence as a No. 6 batsman who will need to bat with the tail a lot in the future.

Rohit did enjoy some luck no doubt - he was caught off a no-ball, he benefitted from a player not picking the ball and getting lobbed at the boundary and, most importantly, he was up against a clueless attack - but he showed both the hunger and the willingness to take on the responsibility of doing all the scoring. Rohit was on 45 when the ninth wicket fell so the hundred couldn't have been a motivation. It would have been easy to throw his bat around or take the singles and let Shami go after the bowling and take a not-out against his name.

However, he chose to take as many runs as he could without taking risks. India were only 233 ahead when Shami joined Rohit, and being asked to bat again was a distinct possibility. By the end of the partnership, India had left West Indies needing their best effort of the series to deny India a second innings victory and three-day finish of the series. Rohit did most things in the partnership: turning down singles in the first half of the over while finding gaps for couples, taking singles towards the end, finding a boundary if the single became elusive. He once even chipped nonchalantly when long-on was back to the last ball of an over.

In joining Sourav Ganguly as the only Indian to have scored centuries in each of his first two Test innings, Rohit converted India's good position into an impregnable one, but the good position owed itself to one man who kept doing his thing quietly even as the rest of the country immersed itself in celebrating possibly Sachin Tendulkar's last Test innings.

The day after Tendulkar announced he was going to retire after this Test series Cheteshwar Pujara, batting in the small town of Hubli in Karnataka, provided calm and reassurance with his third first-class triple-century, against West Indies A. While Tendulkar was playing what is in all likelihood his final international innings, Pujara was there again, equanimous and inconspicuous as Tendulkar duly took all the focus, scoring his fifth Test hundred, in only his 15th Test.

There will be few Test centuries less talked about. Some of Pujara's exquisite shots on the first evening drew only the "Sachiiiiin, Sachin" chants. As long as Tendulkar batted, the crowd wanted Pujara to hand the strike over with singles. After Tendulkar got out, Pujara popped one up towards short leg. As the third umpire spent a long time determining whether the catch was clean or not, the crowd shouted, "out, out, out." They didn't want India to take too big a lead, which could, given West Indies' poor batting form, mean no more batting for India, and with that, Tendulkar.

That's not how Test matches are won, though. And Pujara is as ruthless an accumulator as they come. He doesn't get too excited, he doesn't get too bogged down, he just bats and bats. During the Eden Gardens Test, where West Indies were bowled out on the first day, Pujara was in the nets as soon as stumps were called. He missed out while he batted in the Test, but as soon as the match got over, on the third evening, Pujara was back in the nets again. He didn't want to miss out again. You could be forgiven for thinking, looking at the results, that this was West Indies A, but the occasion was definitely something else.

Batting with Tendulkar in such a match - and only Pujara batted with him - can put you under pressure to play some shots of your own that will stand out. Alternatively it can make you ride the wave and let Tendulkar take all the pressure. Pujara, though, played this like his 15th Test, not Tendulkar's 200th, not his last. The heartening thing for India for the moment is, Rohit didn't look like he was playing only his second.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rkp on November 17, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    I would go for DK instead of Rahane. And Ashwin shd bat no lower than 7. My 15 member squad for SA tour

    Vijay,Dhawan, pujara, kohli, rohit, Dhoni, ashwin, irfan, bhuvi,shami, yadav

    Bench - DK (as a backup opener, keeper or middle order bat) Jadeja as backup allrounder for irfan Rahane - Backup middle order bat Zak

  • Venkat on November 16, 2013, 6:55 GMT

    What a dream run this 2013 has been for Rohit! I am happy, but not surprised with his 111* yesterday. Sid articulated well what Rohit did on day 2 and how he went about it. Just one disagreement: no 6 spot is a little too late for Rohit to come in to bat. I hope he gets the coveted no 4 spot, or at least no 5. Nearly 4 years ago he was supposed to get his start (in Nagpur). You could see from his interviews how he cherished and how he had been working hard for test cricket. He said his years of hard work is what people called "talent". How many beautiful shots would we have seen already had he broken in sooner? He would have spent more of his time/energy in the longer format. It is the selection process (for tests) that is based on ODI performances that really delayed his arrival. Yes there were some issues with consistency and shot selection earlier, but his class, temperament, fluidity, etc should have weighed in. Well done Man of the Series!

  • Sachin on November 16, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    @Al_Bundy1 mate just check out All Records>Test Matches>Bowling Records>Most wickets. Of the 1st 12 names on the list, 3 are Indians and then there is one Mr. Hadlee against whom SRT never played (probably). So this guy SRT has played against most top wicket takers in the history of Test cricket and then some more like Waqar, Steyn, Donald, etc. Need we talk more of the quality of bowlers he faced during his career?

  • s on November 16, 2013, 4:41 GMT

    usernames: Your comment is easily refuted by videos on Youtube that show Tendulkar being smashed on the grill by Anderson and Lee, among others. Take your fanboy glasses off.

  • GV on November 16, 2013, 4:29 GMT

    Shikhar Dhawan will not last in test cricket for too long. He is unfit for tests.

  • Al on November 16, 2013, 4:09 GMT

    Completely agree with @ McGorium - @bigdhonifan: I generally don't like comparing players in different eras, as the rules are often different, but I must call BS on some of the stuff you talk about. SRT *never* faced Lillee, or Thompson. SRT never faced the feared West Indies pace battery comprising of Holding, Roberts, Garner, and Croft. And he never faced Malcom Marshall - considered by many to be the best fast bowler of all time. Gavaskar faced all of them - that too without helmet and without body armor. Gavaskar is still the best test batsman India ever produced. SRT comes a distant second.

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2013, 3:26 GMT

    in my opinion, Rohit is more suited for No 4 in tests than Kohli. Kohli should bat at 5

  • GAURAV on November 16, 2013, 2:58 GMT

    @ Biju Alumkadavil " We will see how they will perform in South Africa, New Zealand (Bouncy pitches)" I personnally care a damn about how they will perform overseas, because I know they will perform better than their opponents. Even if they don't it is not that they should be thrown out of the team. Australia failed miserabley loosing 4-0 in India, but phil hughes and other failed players would still play ashes. When no one is concerned about how their players plays on 4th and 5th day in India, why should I give importance to how our young and inexperienced players play in South Africa.

  • Rakesh on November 16, 2013, 1:46 GMT

    @sachi_whateverfan - read my comments again. Vvs was good with the top order with the tsil he was a false saviour. He needed a lot of assistance from tsilenders. Rohit has shown lot mire maturity in playing with the tail.

  • victoria on November 16, 2013, 1:19 GMT

    "The Indian captain and selectors must be commended for keeping faith in him"! This most silly chorus from both Indian and foreign commentators is about Rohit Sharma, since he has been given his long overdue chance in test cricket, the format that suits him best. Rohit would agree that whoever it is should shut up about this "persevering with him" thing! Isn't it the first time that he has been given a chance to prove himself in the format that best suits him? So where the heck does this "selectors persevered with him" idea come from? His story is that he made the Indian team with a first class average of 60+, which was better than SRT's first class average. He also had the great distinction of a first class highest score of 300+, which SRT could not do in all of 24 long years! And he looked a better batsman than SRT when we first saw him Australia, yet all 'these-and-those' were allowed to debut before him! Now commentators talking categorical NONSENSE about him! Rohit is just class!

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