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Novelist, essayist and historian based in New Delhi

Shades of Gavaskar

There's an implacable soundness about Cheteshwar Pujara, the best young batsman in the Test-playing world

Mukul Kesavan

January 4, 2014

Comments: 110 | Text size: A | A

Pujara comes with a sense of permanence and unflamboyant excellence © Getty Images

Through the first Test at the Wanderers, television commentators said more than once that Virat Kohli was in a different league from his team-mates. On the evidence of Indian batsmanship in the first innings, they had reason. As the other batsmen groped and played and missed, Kohli took the game to the South African quicks, hooked them off his eyebrows, and made his way to a chanceless, match-saving hundred. And then, in the second innings, he nearly did it again.

You could argue, of course, that commentators are meant to know more about the game and its players than the match unfolding before them, but their focus on the here and now in this instance can be forgiven. India had just been destroyed by South Africa's fast bowlers in the ODI series, which automatically set up the first Test as an ordeal by fire for India's new batting line-up. Were they true Test match batsmen capable of seeing off pace and bounce or were they unsound flat-track bullies incapable of scoring outside the subcontinent? Were their batting records - their many centuries and steepling averages - built on home advantage, on slow, low South Asian wickets, or were they reliable guides to the emergence of a new batting line-up that travelled well?

Kohli's 119 and 96 confirmed his coming of age as an all-weather player. Add to these innings his century and fifty in India's last Test on their disastrous tour of Australia and the temptation to see him as the leader of India's new batting cohort is understandable.

Understandable, but wrong. Barring bad knees or an act of God, the pivot of India's batting for the foreseeable future will be Cheteshwar Pujara, not Virat Kohli.

This is not to devalue Kohli: his bullish self-belief allows him to snatch the initiative from formidable bowlers like Steyn and Morkel, which, given the past travails of Indian batsmen against fast bowling abroad, is a rare and precious ability. Not since the young Tendulkar and, occasionally, Laxman, has an Indian middle-order batsman counter-attacked in this way. But the reason why the chorus about Kohli as the leader of this pack is misguided is that any comparative estimate of batting ability that puts Pujara in the second rank is mad. Pujara isn't just the best Test batsman in the Indian team, he is the best young batsman in the Test-playing world.

Ever since Gavaskar (and Vijay Merchant before him) the run-hungry, top-order batsman has spoken directly to the Indian spectator's soul. He might live for Viswanath's dazzle and Sehwag's pyrotechnics but hardwired into his head is a race memory of batting collapses in the face of fast bowling, so the first order of business is the solvency that only a Gavaskar or Dravid can supply. When Pujara announced himself with a 72 against Australia in Bangalore in 2010, something about the composure and poise of the innings rang bells in middle-aged heads, bells that they hadn't heard in a decade and more.

Ever since Gavaskar (and Vijay Merchant before him) the run-hungry, top-order batsman has spoken directly to the Indian spectator's soul

When Pujara injured himself soon after they sighed and went back to consoling themselves with the twilight of their Immortals, but luckily for them the young lion from Saurashtra came roaring back with four big hundreds, two of them double-centuries. The one thing Pujara had to prove to himself and the world was his ability to make runs outside the subcontinent. There was nothing in his temperament or technique that was likely to prevent him from doing just that, but his one outing to South Africa hadn't gone well. For doubting desis who value foreign runs more than local scores, Pujara had that bridge to cross.

And now he has. Pole-vaulted across it, actually. In the four innings he played in South Africa, he had scores of 25, 153, 70 and 32. The interesting thing about this sequence is that even when Pujara was out early, he seemed set for a long innings. It's the first thing the Indian spectator senses when he's at the crease: there's a permanence about Pujara.

It helps that his dismissals are seldom the result of carelessness. At the Wanderers he went for 25 because Kohli sold him a dummy and ran him out. At Kingsmead he was sawn off at 32 because Steyn angled a ball in, which then, either because it hit a crack or because Steyn is a fast bowling genius, or both, straightened and took the top of off stump. It was the ball of the series and with Pujara in the form he was in, it probably needed to be.

A long Pujara innings seems to follow a pattern. There's an opening passage where he plays variations on defensive themes. Here he is very much like his great predecessor at No. 3, Rahul Dravid, in how late he meets the ball, in his self-denial outside the off stump, in the wristy turn to leg as a release shot that gets him a risk-free run.

After this alaap where time and run rates seem to be of no consequence, Pujara introduces a steady pulse of run-making into his performance. Once he passes a hundred, his innings becomes decidedly uptempo, and by the time he is finished, he has mutated into an aggressive batsman, cutting and pulling and driving his way to the enormous scores that he routinely accumulates in both first-class and Test cricket.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli added 222 for the third wicket, South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 4th day, December 21, 2013
Kohli has five hundreds with a highest score of 119. Pujara has six, of which two are double-hundreds and two top the 150 mark © Getty Images

This is evident from his strike rate that is, counter-intuitively, higher than Kohli's, who in demeanour and intent seems much the more aggressive batsman. And though any comparisons with Dravid are presumptuous and premature given that the great man played ten times as many Tests as Pujara has, it's worth noting that Pujara's strike rate is some ten runs higher than Dravid's. There were times when Dravid could seem one-paced; Pujara, on the other hand, seems to routinely move from sedate beginnings to positively brisk conclusions.

The contrast with Kohli is especially marked when you consider the size of their centuries. Kohli has five hundreds but his highest score is 119. Pujara has six, of which two are double-hundreds and two top the 150 mark. Kohli, like Kevin Pietersen, will always give the bowler a chance as he seeks to impose himself on the contest. Pujara will play the percentages and maximise the attritional possibilities that Test cricket affords, to grind the bowling attack down. A Test team needs both sorts of batsmen, but given his consistency, his strike rate and his astonishing batting average, Pujara is the pre-eminent Test batsman in this team.

The Indian batsman Pujara resembles most closely in terms of temperament and ability is Sunil Gavaskar. Gavaskar opened the batting and Pujara does not, but despite that and despite their technical differences (Gavaskar represented a textbook classicism, while Pujara is a notably bottom-handed player) they have in common an implacable soundness, an unflamboyant excellence, an ability to change tempo and a tapeworm's appetite for runs.

Indian spectators of a certain age are always looking, not for the next Tendulkar but for the next Gavaskar, the man who made Indian cricket solvent in the early '70s. They are cautious about naming successors; they once thought they had one in Sanjay Manjrekar, but fine batsman though he was, he wasn't quite up to shouldering that legacy.

Cheteshwar Pujara at 25, with an average in excess of 65 after 17 Test matches has them murmuring again about a second coming. After this brilliant series against the best fast bowling attack in the world (that too in foreign parts), these middle-aged murmurings are threatening to become a roar.

Mukul Kesavan is a novelist, essayist and historian based in New Delhi. This article was first published in the Kolkata Telegraph

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Posted by jay57870 on (January 8, 2014, 15:22 GMT)

Both Pujara & Kohli are exceptional players. They deserve praise. But any comparison of one at the expense of the other is disingenuous. Kesavan gets carried away when he declares: "But the reason why the chorus about Kohli as the leader of this pack is MISGUIDED (emphasis mine) is that any comparative estimate of batting ability that puts Pujara in the second rank is MAD (emphasis)"! Ever the bombastic pundit, Mukul proclaims: "Pujara isn't just the best Test batsman in the Indian team, he is the best young batsman in the Test-playing world"! Really? Not only does Mukul "devalue" Kohli (despite his denial), he acts as if he's the "I-know-best" authority on world cricket. Is Kesavan pretending to be a Bradman? Remember Bradman likened himself to Sachin Tendulkar: ''I saw him playing on TV and was struck by his technique ... but I feel that this player is playing much the same as I used to play"! When the great Don spoke, people listened intently. Now that's a genuine tribute, Mukul!

Posted by Unmesh_cric on (January 8, 2014, 9:13 GMT)

Mukul Kesavan is spot on. Cheteshwar Pujara is India's best Test batsman. Period. But I must say that in this particular series against SA, both Kohli and Pujara played equally well. Pujara has insatiable apatite for runs. He makes big centuries both in domestic circuit as well as international cricket. Overall, the future looks bright for Indian batting despite the 1-0 loss in South Africa. Indian batsmen handled Steyn and Co. pretty well.

Posted by   on (January 8, 2014, 6:25 GMT)

Everyone talking about Pujara and Kohli but I found another lad who is not in headline but was tremendous Rahane. His growth in series was phenomenal. Dhoni as usual let down. There was time when Kirmani used to bat at no. ten for india followed by real dead tail doshi or maninder. now dhoni and rest are ducks outside sub-continent. so practically we don't expect last five to make more than 50 runs. whereas SA bat till 10, morkel coming at 11 too can contribute. Eng have broad, bresnan, swans, aussie have johnson siddle etc whom bowlers struggle to get rid off (for indian pacers they are almost regular batsman). while we have zaheer ishant shami all just waste refusing to stay at crease. we lost series in SA because our last five onces folded for 16 and in second test for 14. dhoni is weaklink abroad.

Posted by   on (January 7, 2014, 1:36 GMT)

Johan: Pujara is a fantastic test hope for India, we have very few in that category, but his knees are suspect having gone through multiple surgeries. It could be observed during his running many times. One - to protect those legs, two - to protect his technique, he has to be stereotyped as a test batsman. Tough on the lad but the country needs him more in Test matches. ODIs: Won't the Rainas, Dhawans and Rohits be able to manage?

Posted by swarzi on (January 7, 2014, 0:45 GMT)

jay57870, You're correct! Ian Chappell did predict Duminy to be the "Next Big Thing"! In fact, he predicted that Duminy might be the next "Brian Lara"; and yes, Sehwag was "The New Bradman"! In other words likening two up and coming young batsmen to the TWO GREATEST BATSMEN OF ALL TIME! While I agree with you that there was a 'REALITY' question in his prediction, I have no problem with the likes of Mukul and Ian Chappell likening players to the best, when they perform well. It is left to the individuals to run with the accolades. As I wrote before, Pujara deserves every bit of credit that's been given to him in this article. The young guy definitely has shades of the TWO GREATEST INDIAN BATSMEN OF ALL TIME! So, what's wrong telling him that? I also love Kohli. Both players are excellent replacements for their predecessors. The slight rivalry-prompting is also healthy. There's no way at this stage of their career to know who is better; but a Gavacar/Dravid clone is a sure Bradman!

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 17:31 GMT)

I saw the Wanderers test and Pujara, Kolhi and Rahane all batted very well. However, it was Pujara that impressed most. It did not come as a surprise. He will serve India well in the coming years, even as captain. I know Kohli is first in line for that post, but Pujara has the calmness to do well. Why is he not in the limited overs team?i

Posted by jay57870 on (January 6, 2014, 17:02 GMT)

Some cricket writers have a tendency to construct essays that seem wise & prophetic. Except they overlook the reality: Cricket, like life, has its twists & turns - it's unpredictable! Take Ian Chappell - in his infinite wisdom, he anointed Duminy as the "Next Big Thing" & Sehwag as "The New Bradman"! Oops! That's why Mukul's know-it-all proclamation of Pujara as "the best young batsman in the Test playing world" is so misguided. How's he so certain? Mukul admits any comparisons of Pujara with Dravid as "presumptuous and premature". Likewise, his comparative premise of "Shades of Gavaskar" is questionable. The great Sunny played 125 Tests over a phenomenal 16-year long career. Still Mukul finds in Pujara at age 25 - with just 17 Tests - a "sense of permanence". But does he have the Staying Power? of a Gavaskar? or a Dravid? For Pujara's sake, let's hope these "middle-aged murmurings ... become a roar" don't turn into "In like a lion and out like a lamb". Remember Leo & Aries, Mukul?

Posted by jay57870 on (January 6, 2014, 16:54 GMT)

Mukul - Beware of "middle-aged murmurings"! Yes, Pujara was impressive in SA with his scores of 25, 153, 70 & 32. And so was Kohli with 119, 96, 46 & 11 with a Man-of-the-Match award to boot. What was most impressive was their partnerships of 89 & 222 at Jo'Burg. So to anoint one (Pujara) absolutely over the other (Kohli) - with "misguided" & "mad" darts at the "chorus" - is disingenuous of Kesavan. How does it not "devalue" Kohli? Really? Instead of conjuring a rivalry, the focus should be on the team. Team India's GenNext players are ready to step into the big void left by the retiring veterans. Especially the young batsmen: Kohli, Pujara, Rahane, Rohit, Dhawan & Co. So too must the young bowlers: Ishant, Shami, Yadav, Kumar, Ashwin, Jadeja & Co. But bowling's been India's Achilles' Heel, not Pujara's "bad knees"! The "pivot" of India's bowling for the foreseeable future is its ability to take 20 wickets. It's about Team India's rejuvenation, not Pujara's second coming, Mukul!

Posted by CricketMaan on (January 6, 2014, 16:07 GMT)

Pujara, Kholi, Rohit, Rahane, Dhawan, Vijay should be compared, reviewed only after the test series vs Australia later this season. Until then better to reserve comments and rather let them enjoy the season. Indian batsmen no matter what they achieve in India, will only be evaluvated by thier overseas performance, especially on thier contribution to a winning cause. Its true that Indian bowlers have to take 20 wickets to win a game, but its the batsmen that set up the game for them. Kholi and Pujara have shown with thier 100s in Aus and SA that they can survive and thrive under pressure, but its thier consistency and longevity that will mark them as the successors to the Dravids and Laxmans and SRTs.

Posted by raj_vardhan on (January 6, 2014, 8:03 GMT)

Interesting article. Both players have exceptional technique, and though their temperaments differ, it is great for the team that they compliment each others' game so well when they are on the 22-yards. I feel it is good for Pujara to have someone like Kohli at the other end who looks to take the fight to the opposition, while he is in his opening defensive passage. I really look forward to some big partnerships by these two in upcoming tours, and further ahead in future.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 6:25 GMT)

Nice article. Hope Pujara will get his due as ture test batsman.Rahul dravid was unfortunate that he didn't got his due credit. But, ppl with true cricketing brain knows the value of Pujaras, Dravids. Rahane should be promoted to #5 as he also shows the appetite of huge runs. Rohit Sharma is a waste player with no temperament & lots of arrogance.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 23:13 GMT)

Ah Mukul, you're such a good writer. And you state the truth too. Kudos

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 21:10 GMT)

@ Vinay are either very funny or irreparably stupid...!

Posted by Naresh28 on (January 5, 2014, 16:09 GMT)

ALL I CAN SAY IS that I am happy that they BOTH play for India. Pujara is the tonic we needed after the fab 5. We see other batsman like Rahane, Samson, Zol, Khadiwale, K Rahul making attemps to break into the team. Rahane has impressed even Dravid. WHAT ABOUT THE BWOLING THE SAME CANNOT BE SAID!!

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (January 5, 2014, 16:06 GMT)

Agree with @swarzi - Batting averages in the 70s; 80s and 90s were slow, but that was not dictated by how good the batsmen were. It instead was the quality of the bowling then. Also, Mr Gavaskar faced 4 pronged; 3 pronged; 2 pronged bowling attacks at the kind of pace maybe you've never seen, in sun hats, with match stick bats; limitless number of bouncers per over. I don't think the likes of Tendulkar and Kohli would have lasted one series against the West Indian pace battery of the 70s and 80s.

Posted by kapilesh23 on (January 5, 2014, 14:53 GMT)

I forgot to mention one more point, Fitness. Kohli seems like a horse and prepared to do anything on the field. While for Pujara not only his kness but also overall seems fragile. I would bank more on Kohli to face Mitch Johnson and Harris in Australia than Pujara.

Posted by kapilesh23 on (January 5, 2014, 14:33 GMT)

What about Suresh Raina?.... sorry a bad joke. One thing Kesevan has not mentioned though is of pressure. Virat Kohli is already under lots of pressure now a days to perform. People went after him just after two failures in the odi's. Pujara on the other hand also go through pressure but it is only on the field pressure. Kohli now a days has to deal with lots of off the field pressure as well, because expectations from him has risen over the years. Kohli is more versatile than pujara. I would say Kohli is best batsman for India across formats but I would agree that pujara right now is a better batsman in test than Kohli.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 14:17 GMT)

Pujara looks better than both Dravid or Gavaskar. Kohli is a young SRT. Dhawan is a left-handed Sehwag. Rohit is VVS Laxman. Give Dhawan & Rohit a few more tests abroad, remember the failures of Kohli, Vijay, and Pujara in their first few tests abroad.

Posted by swarzi on (January 5, 2014, 12:16 GMT)

Posted by CricketChat, Batting averages in the 70s; 80s and 90s were slow, but that was not dictated by how good the batsmen were. It instead was the quality of the bowling then. Also, Mr Gavascar faced 4 pronged; 3 pronged; 2 pronged bowling attacks at the kind of pace maybe you've never seen, depending on your age: in sun hats, with match stick bats; limitless number of bouncers per over; no technology to detect when a 100 MPH fast bowler was throwing; on some of the worst pitches ever - not the sleeping beds you see these days. It's nothing that some of you guys might have had the heart to watch - arrant carnage! Don't you read about Bedi's DECLARATION TWICE to limit the bloodbath against Holding and Co. in the West Indies - the most bizarre test match ever: A captain surrendered a match to the opposition due to fear of the fast bowling against his team! So these guys you all have these days touting about their greatness, tell them to ask Sunny about batting. Pujara looks real good!

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 11:50 GMT)

he will surpass Bradman vuz he bats for 300 runs every time.....

Posted by RB007 on (January 5, 2014, 8:41 GMT)

What a topical subject! I suspect our responses to Pujara Versus Kohli would depend on our individual preferences. Do you prefer to watch death by a thousand nicks? Or does the propect of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object enthrall you more. I am thrilled to bits that both these guys represent India and that the supporting cast of Rahane, Rohit, Vijay and Dhawan match them well. Now if only Dhoni can contribute at 7 and the tail does not throw it away the way they did in South Africa, this should be a team that bats for over 100 overs more often than not. And that is the first step towards setting up matches to win Abroad! Now when can we hope for a similar debate for our bowling attack. Now that's another story

Posted by pitch_curator on (January 5, 2014, 8:16 GMT)

@ RyanHarrisGreatCricketer - Steve Smith is at best a good batsman in his home conditions. He is ok when the ball is not swinging and there are no good spinners in the opposition. He was found out in England except for one hundred on a flat oval track where even Watson made a 150. That is the reason Australia hide him at # 5 or 6. If he were so good, Australia would have sent him out at # 3 long time back instead of Watson. Having said that I still want to see Pujara play in Australia on bouncy tracks before anointing him as one of the best in the world.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 8:01 GMT)

First thing to point out that Please do not call Kohli as the next Tendulkar or so...He is yet nowhere in the achievement scenario and more over Tendulkar was a calm and polite player whereas Kohli is ruthless, aggressive and not worthy of the title.

Pujara of course is a good player...but we should not naem him as Test player but give him a chance to play other formats too....May be he will play even good there.

Posted by Emancipator007 on (January 5, 2014, 1:54 GMT)

@MaruthuDelft:U forget that SMG's bad series in OZ'81 was his FIRST!!! in 5 STRAIGHT years since 1976 during which he was world batsman supremo reaching 20 100s by Test 52 (just 9 short of Bradman's29). & also conveniently forgetting that he scored almost 3 100s (that 90 in Ahmedabad at Sehwaguesqe SR was the BEST innings EVER against a potent pace attack on a dangerous pitch) including only 200 scored against Marshall/Holding/Roberts EVER (all of whom could take Indian wickets out of the equation with their thru-the-air quicker pace) in entire era. SMG succeeded in every foreign tour in mid-to-late70s B4 OZ/NZ tours failures. U cannot pick & choose series when Sunny failed as he also stood upto Holding's(younger then) bloodbath bodyline bowling in Jamaica'76 when Bedi declared in both innings to avoid injuries!. Sunny was India's Kohinoor & still considered best Test bat by Viv/Lloyd/Roberts/Sobers/Croft (on commentary as Croft never played against SMG).

Posted by Emancipator007 on (January 5, 2014, 1:50 GMT)

@Longmemory: if ur memory is so sharp to remember one-off 36 of Sunny in '70s, then u wud also remem his other achievements (fastest 100 in '87 World Cup at age 38) & that he was also the MOST consistent ODI bat against WI in ODIs too in 80s!.He was SINGULARY responsible for "breaking the code of defeating invincible WI in ODIs" with his supreme 90 in Berbice,WI '83 just before World Cup. In fact, SMG ended up with an average of 40(which was an UNTHIKABLE average for an opener in that tough era) in '80s ODIs (after his extremely poor returns in '70s ODIs) under Kapil's captaincy when he was supposed to be underperforming-scoring 21 50s at one per 3 innings & was also the 2nd best opener after Greenidge in chasing averages (45 plus!!). Imran/Viv/Lillee/McGrath had no less bigger egos. All super performers do ( u see that in Kohli/KP). One cannot expect everybody to be a SRT/Dravid/VVS/Cook-personality wise.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (January 5, 2014, 1:02 GMT)

I'm a massive fan of this guy ever since I first saw him two years ago. His temperament and inner-confidence is outstanding. He for mine is close to the best in the world at the moment.

Posted by Bonehead_maz on (January 4, 2014, 23:20 GMT)

My father, who was a Test opening batsman, after one look at Pujara excitedly rang his former opening partner and said "India have found a replacement for Dravid, who looks the same, but has shots." Comparisons were already being made ! Best young batsman ? Certainly very good, but I myself really like the look of Rahane. Seemingly ridiculously ? I'd include Steven Smith in the candidates. Nice to know there's a few about !

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 22:28 GMT)

Pujara will be the best test batsman in the cricket world as long as India play regular test cricket...Granted Steyn was a bot off in the 1st test but his judgement of line was impeccable.The ability to get bowlers to bowl to him and his patience will see him get some big scores in different like to see how he fares in England against the moving ball as well but i back him to make big runs.The guys eats,sleeps,dreams and drinks the game.

Posted by IPSY on (January 4, 2014, 22:17 GMT)

Mukul, what is also very outstanding about this article, is the fact that there is nothing premature in what is being said in its contents. The youth deserves every word that is said about him. There's not one word of favouritism hype! It's the essence of unvarnished truth being told about the extraordinary attributes of this young talented cricketer, who really wants to make it big for his country first, and then for himself! Looking at the expression on his face when he's in battle, you see a youth who is fearless of the worst that's being thrown at him - he's meant to fight it out to the end, successfully too. He also looks like one who's going to seek the very keenest of competitions to make his name - no chasing of cheap runs where ever he can get them! However, this is exactly one of Kohli's attributes too. They both want to be associated with excellent performances against the very best. We're not saying that they're Sunny or Rahul, but they both deserve this little big up!

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 21:29 GMT)

@mainmoul 12345..... man bangladesh is a disgrace dey are playing too lomg yet cant win anything......I think ireland or Afghanistan can be better test nation den bangladesh.....

Posted by on (January 4, 2014, 20:29 GMT)

And for those who disagree , who exactly are his competition in world cricket ? i don't see many other new test batsman under 26 scoring like this guy , kohli is the one who comes closest , then there are warner , steve smith , kane williamson and darren bravo..all good but none quiet up to pujara's class

Posted by on (January 4, 2014, 20:15 GMT)

@ pull shot - and why exactly do you think its too much ??, pujara is a world class batsman and am not saying this just because am an Indian , in fact i was not too sure about kohli performing in SA but always believed pujara will , there is no obvious weakness in his game - rock solid technique , superb defense , all the patience in the world , scores big , can step up the run rate if he wants , plays late and plays it along the ground .. he ticks the 3 important boxes for a batsman - technique , temperament , age.. can be better than the original wall in my opinion

Posted by vivkr on (January 4, 2014, 19:50 GMT)

@pull_shot: Going by the averages, the statement is certainly substantiated.

Pujara is indeed the most dependable young Test batsman in the world. One hopes that he will continue to keep his astonishingly high Test averages where they are, next only to the great Don at the moment.

Posted by Longmemory on (January 4, 2014, 19:06 GMT)

Much to agree with here except the bit about Chet being not merely the best test batsman in the Indian team but the world. Without seeming churlish, what I also like about Pujara is that he seems very very unlikely to score 36 runs in 60 overs just to make some obscure point to the rest of his teammates and the world at large. He seems a team-man and devoid of the humongous ego that was Sunny.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 18:21 GMT)

Will not be surprised if he bests even Sunny..

Posted by Dagur on (January 4, 2014, 17:53 GMT)

excellent article. While Kohli looks to dominate the bowlers as Ricky Ponting used to do when in full flow , Pujara looks to go along with quite and calm assurance, more like Rahul Dravid. Both are sure to go miles in their own ways. One thing is clear even now that while Kohli's volatile attitude may not suit the captaincy, Pujara's cool and calculated demeanor looks ideal for the job. While there is so much over hype about Tendulkar, mainly due to exponential growth in the popularity of the game and also to the matching growth in telecasting, Sunil Gavaskar remains the ultimate, the best ever batsman this country has produced and one of the greatest Test Opener ever.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 17:37 GMT)

I am always cautious when it comes to predicting future in cricket. Too many examples in the past contributes to my wariness! Irfan Pathan was supposed to be our next Kapil Dev. Ajantha Mendis was supposed to be still bamboozling batsmen around the world! Shaun Tait was once given the emerging player of the year award. He went into oblivion soon. Steven Finn has not set the world alight either. Devendra Bishoo is another name in this category.

Let Pujara and Kohli continue to excel consistently over the next decade. Best thing to do is to wish them luck rather than compare with legends at such an early stage of their careers.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 17:27 GMT)

One thing that Kohli needs to learn from Pujara is those big hundreds.. He has to realize that in test matches when you are in form and settled, you have to bat the opposition out from the game and just not score an advantage over them.. If he can learn that,and combine those with his temperament and skills he is bound for greatness.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 17:18 GMT)

Agree.Initially had doubts on his credentials including unflamboyant style but the saf series has made me change my opinions.He is rock solid in defence.Has a great eye and ability to play late to great effect If people can remember steyn in his post match on field interview acknowledged the fact that the ball which got pujara out was a special one.He also added that it was feeling good to get a good batsman out.So pujara is a jewel whish should be preserved by India and not be wasted.

Posted by CricketChat on (January 4, 2014, 17:18 GMT)

Hope Pujara scores much faster than the SMG. We need test players scoring at a strike rate around 65-70 to make them worthwhile watching or following. No fan wants to see top order batsmen scoring rate around 30s as was quite common in the 70s, 80s and for the better part of 90s.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 17:06 GMT)

yes, Pujara comes to the crease withan assuredness that he will only give his wicket away to the bowler out of his willingness or by an act of God. I hold the same views of the writer but what stumbles me is when I look at the Indian ssquad for the One dayers and I find his name missing. Is BCCI really that dumb not to select him as No. 4 in ODIs or are they so arrogant in their assessment (rather a presumption) that his technique is fit only for Tests? If India thinks of giving a fighting chance at 2015 WC trophy - they have to get Pujara batting in at No 4!

Posted by pull_shot on (January 4, 2014, 17:01 GMT)

"Pujara isn't just the best Test batsman in the Indian team, he is the best young batsman in the Test-playing world" thats too much

Posted by CricUniverse on (January 4, 2014, 16:05 GMT)

Excellent article by Mukul. One thing that stands out for Pujara is his ability to score big hundreds. It appears that Double hundred is a hundred and hunded is a fifty in Pujara's books. Greatness and beyond beckons Pujara. The tours of England and Australia this year will be challenging for him but I am sure he will come out of them with flying colors as he did in SA.

Posted by mainul079080 on (January 4, 2014, 15:45 GMT)

How the writer got sure that Pujara is the best young player of all? I want to see him play in Newzeland and then comment on him.But i want to say that we have also got 2 great young talents- Nasir Hossain and Mominul Haque. If Bangladesh gets chances to play more matches it will become evident.

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (January 4, 2014, 15:28 GMT)

Agree with @Mukul - The Indian batsman Pujara resembles most closely in terms of temperament and ability is Sunil Gavaskar. I hope Pujara can develop the skills and fortitude to face top level pace bowlers, just like Gavaskar was fearless in facing the likes of Marshall, Garner, Holding, Roberts, Imran, Lillee and Thompson. That's why I consider Gavaskar the best Indian batsman ever. He faced all those fearsome bowlers without wearing a helmet and without all the body armor that current batsmen wear. Tendulkar comes a distant second among Indian batsmen.

Posted by srikanths on (January 4, 2014, 15:13 GMT)

I agree with Indiapunter on Ashwin. he looks a very sound bat, with a natural timing gift. Plays the ball quite late, in fact he looks sounder than Dhoni. His bowling abroad is quite ineffective. He is not one of the classic off spinners, he lacks the hip swerve which you used to see in a Bhajji which used to give him and bounce nor does he impart as much spin as Swann. He will be good in Indian pitches but abroad , at this time he looks iffy

He might end his career as a batsman who could roll his arm later.

Posted by srikanths on (January 4, 2014, 15:09 GMT)

It is true, people like us who have been following cricket from the early 70 s of course one could start watching cricket on TV from the late 70 s ,are clearly reminded of Sunil Gavaskar's soundness in Pujara. The immaculate forward defensive , the way he meets the ball off the backfoot quite at the last second giving the ball that much time to do something ,gauging the same and middling it.But , in my view , he still has to prove in a seris in Australia and once in England before he can be unequivocally be anointed as the successor to SMG. All things point to that happening , atleast in terms of ability and of course he should remain injury free.

Posted by IPSY on (January 4, 2014, 15:05 GMT)

As a caustic cricket critic, I'm very proud to say that I always back the Gt Sunil Gavascar as the greatest opening batsman that I've seen; and easily the best Indian batsman ever. Next in line in my opinion, is the Gt Rahul 'The Wall' Dravid. He and Gavascar are easily India's two best batsmen ever. I think that Sachin, though he scored a lot of runs, he spent time doing so, but has a fair number of drought baggage which don't put him in the same class with those 2. And Virat Kohli! I think he has places to go! He reminds me of the way the Gt West Indians batted. They were aggressive but confidently so. Hence, they made big runs aggressively, consistently and confidently. Pick any of the big West Indians and you would see that common characteristic in their batting style - Kohli reminds me of WI batting. Now to Pujara. I'm on record saying that he appears to have the potential to end like Dravid or better. And, if some aspect of Gavascar is seen in him, is he the next Sir Don?

Posted by BruceO on (January 4, 2014, 14:45 GMT)

We have seen plenty of batsmen debut in the past with startling averages maintained throughout their first 20 or so tests only to see them then migrate towards normality as the opposition plus weight of sample size take hold. What I like about Pujara is his mode of run the descriptions of Bradman (and I'm NOT saying he is the next Bradman) and you will see they are strikingly similar..accumulator of runs/lack of flamboyance etc. I wish him all the best in his career and hope the promising start turns out to be something we can all enjoy being a part of.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 13:42 GMT)

guys why so much of criticism towards the writer? he has said that pujara is currently the best young batsman in the test playing world... if you bring in a comparison between pujara and the other batsmen in their early or mid 20s I think he s the best of the lot... don't bring in unfair examples like ABD amla sanga etc... pujara s yet to play 2 full seasons of test cricket and in whatever matches he s played he s shown that he puts a very high price on his wicket and he also has the technique to back his temperament... in a way its disappointing when people degrade his scores on turning pitches in India... in any case he proved his mettle at Johannesburg against a very strong attack... its not easy to maintain a 65+ avg over a season and a half and you need to respect that... kohli is a special talent in his own right and he has validated the same with some amazing knocks in ODIs ... he l do the same in tests too...but then lets reserve our judgements for the end of 2014!

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 13:31 GMT)

Pujara is a good batsman.. certified even by Dale Steyn.. lets keep it at that

Posted by PACERONE on (January 4, 2014, 13:27 GMT)

Kohli and pujara are both good batsmen who if they continue in the same vain will be great batsmeni know that I would not pass up an opportunity to watch batsmen like those two Amla,de villiers and Sangakara bat.Not interested in watching any English batsmen.Warner and Clarke are worth watching.Even the young Bangladesh batsmen are worth watching.

Posted by byeprem on (January 4, 2014, 13:24 GMT)

Hello guys, the article says Pujara is the best young batsman in the world, which is basically comparing him with other guys who have come in the last 1-2 years. Other guys like De-Villiers, Amla etc have been around for a few years. Please read what is written before commenting.

Posted by rajuramki on (January 4, 2014, 13:02 GMT)

Amla is, no doubt, a very good batsman with orthodox and violence free strokes . But he is scoring his runs against a pack of decent bowlers but not as fierce as Steyn ,Morkel and Philander . Further , Pujara has been facing top bowlers and makes it appear that scoring runs is the easiest thing to do . I will go with Mukul and place Pujara well ahead of other top batsmen like Amla,Kohli or Devilliers.

Posted by indianpunter on (January 4, 2014, 12:56 GMT)

My 2 cents, though i might be out of place in a Pujara article.Ashwin as opener. Thats what i would plump for against NZ, ENG and Aus later this year. There is a Shastri Version2.0 in Ashwin. When his career ends, i think he will be considered a better bat than a bowler.

Posted by Sir_Ivor on (January 4, 2014, 12:52 GMT)

One bit of advice . He should not be attending press conferences because he is better off with action than words.Pess conferences are alright for the Kohlis and Steve Smiths. There is no point in sending Pujara for pressers. It is like sending Gavaskar. I do not remember when Sunny attended a press conference in his carreer

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 12:39 GMT)

I think he is a great talent, but to rave about his and Kohli's achievements in South Africa is premature. Both pitches, but especially the one in Durban, was nowhere near a proper South African pitch with pace, bounce and sideways movement. Before they can score consistently on these kind of pitches, I will reserve my judgement.

Posted by El_Dipstik on (January 4, 2014, 11:26 GMT)

It would be nice to see Pujara spend a season in English County cricket also. It will help develop his skills in different conditions and make him a more complete batsmen.

Posted by MaruthuDelft on (January 4, 2014, 11:25 GMT)

Come on; stop writing Pujara is world's best or something similar. Batting and any action cannot be understood fully by individual intelligence. You have to wait folk. You have to wait and see how he performs in Australia in a keenly fought series. Besides because of his lack of physical clout, certainly he is really sturdy, he cannot ever be better than AB De Villiers. Also currently he is not better, not yet better, than Michael Clarke, Hashim Amla, Kumar Sangakara and may be a few more.

Posted by IndiaNumeroUno on (January 4, 2014, 11:09 GMT)

@RyanHarrisGreatCricketer: if you take what Geoffrey Boycott says about cricket seriously, then good luck my friend! :)

Posted by venkatesh018 on (January 4, 2014, 10:51 GMT)

I am not sure I agree with Mukul on whether Pujara is currently the best Test batsman in the world(Virat Kohli and Hashim Amla will have something to say about that).But of one thing, I am absolutely certain-he is a far better player than greats like Dravid and Laxman were at this age.

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist on (January 4, 2014, 10:42 GMT)

In this madness, everybody is forgetting Rahane. And then Sanju. I have no doubt that Sanju is going to knock over Nohit from our test team and the blue-eyed CSK boy Raina from our ODI team. Follow Sanju's career over the next 2 decades. Pujara should be the first one who should walk into our ODI team and then we decide the remaining players from there. It's a shame, real shame that some helicopter shot sloggers can decide on his abilities and future. Rahane is the next player who has to be in our ODI team. India needs Pujara, Rahane and Sanju in ODIs. Period!

Posted by tpjpower on (January 4, 2014, 10:41 GMT)

@RyanHarrisGreatCricketer: Steve Smith better than Pujara? You're either trolling, or you have an incredibly poor understanding of cricket for somebody with a cricinfo username. Smith is a dangerous but inconsistent counterattacker in the lower middle order, but Pujara has the look of a future great. In terms of technique, consistency and output, there is no comparison.

Posted by Vaughanographic on (January 4, 2014, 10:31 GMT)

Great article on a very very good young player who I rate very highly. Upon reflection though it is a bit sad there are not more young batsmen on the scene to challenge Pujara for the throne of "best young batsman". Kohli yes, Quintin De Kock needs to play test cricket still and Steve Smith is starting to look the goods too but I cant think of many other players other than the recently dropped Joe Root. Have I missed anyone?

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist on (January 4, 2014, 10:28 GMT)

One more thing, given a chance, Pujara will be the best ODI batsman in the world. As Emancipator said, there definitely are vested interests that are denying Pujara his well deserved place in our ODI team. It's such a shame that politicians and helicopter sloggers get to decide on the future and capabilities of the best batsman in the world.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 10:24 GMT)

@Ryanharris....Do not, by mistake, compare Puji and Smith..These 2 cricketers are miles apart in Technique and Temperament. I love Smith and Kohli is my current fav batsman but everything said in this article is true and absolutely correct. 10-13 years of Pujara is what this India team needs the most. His hunger for runs is out of this world. Everytime he comes out to bat, it is clear that he will not get out. He understands that the 2nd and the subsequent hundreds are easier to score and does the same. And if you have followed his career, you would know that more often than not, it has been bad luck or an amazing ball that has taken his wicket.This guy is genius and test cricket lovers know that. He is as good as Amla who according to me is the best test batsman today and as good as(if not better) as Clare. That said I dont like the comparison with Sir Gavaskar.Pujara is what would have been had Laxman batted No.3 for India.

Posted by gujratwalla on (January 4, 2014, 10:23 GMT)

Gavaskar was in a class of his own; i rate him the greatest batsman to come from India.When Pujara has proved himself in UK,Australia etc than we will see whether he is comparable to Gavaskar.There is no doubt he is very talented as is Kohli and both are potentially players of India's future.Reason Gavaskar stands above all is that he faced some of the mosr feared fast bowlers in history without helmets,was never hit on the head and generally played them at ease.The way the modern batsmen keep being hit on the helmet,taking eyes off the ball is a sign of weakness not greatness.

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist on (January 4, 2014, 10:17 GMT)

He is not only the best batsman in the world today, he is also our captain in the making. Dhoni proved himself to be a worthless weight in the test team. With a proper specialist batsman in DK, I don't see a future for Dhoni in our test team unless money and politics have their final say. Pujara is Rahul Dravid v2.0 which is Gavaskar, Dravid and VVS rolled into one. What a player he is.

@RyanHarrisGreatCricketer: Steven who?? Don't embarrass yourself over here. Do some research before posting such embarrassing comments.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 10:07 GMT)

I will however be searching of a sehwag....there is and was no one like him.

Posted by APUrologist on (January 4, 2014, 9:29 GMT)

@RyanHarrisGreatCricketer Steven Smith has an avg of 34.64 with 2 centuries in 16 tests ( not counting the one currently on). Horizontal bat shots alone does not a batsman make.

Posted by oracle86 on (January 4, 2014, 9:19 GMT)

Pujara actually has a great List A average as well. I'm pretty sure that he would be equally successful in ODIs. How about giving him that #4 slot? Yuvraj and Raina haven't worked out so well. Time to give Pujara a shot. And I'm sure he'll be raring to make amends for his previous ODI performances.

Posted by MaruthuDelft on (January 4, 2014, 8:49 GMT)

Pujara could be better but its too early to say. Gavsakar even though occasionally scored at good rates those occasions were like accidents. He was never really good enough or confident to push the rate. Who would forget the 36* he made in 60 overs in a WC match? And Gavaskar failed in the two most important test series where he was actually challenged by the best. The last happened in West Indies in 1982 when Kapil Dev led India. West Indies were gunning for Gavaskar; he failed on all (8 or 6 may be) innings that mattered; in one test he scored a century on the final day after rain washed out 3 days of the previous 4. Before that in 1980/81 Australians targeted Gavaskar down under. He failed in the first 5 innings. In the 6th he got going but contraversially given LBW for 70. However Gavaskar had some success when Aus and Windies didn't target him, played with less than full force or played in India. While playing Gavaskar was considered a shade below Viv, Greg Chappel, Zaheer & Gower

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (January 4, 2014, 8:20 GMT)

This article has an amusing headline.

Steven Smith is the best young batsman in test cricket. Smith, adept at horizontal-bat shots against quickies, also plays spin well.

As for Pujara's performances in SA, people need to be aware that the pitches were more Asian in nature, like Geoffrey Boycott said recently.

Posted by AB_DeVilliers on (January 4, 2014, 7:59 GMT)

Always knew that if India were to challenge SA, he would have to play well at 3, and boy he didn't disappoint. Very good batsmen indeed and on evidence, has a sound temprament as well. Just need to keep him away from press conferences for now, talks too much and mostly nonsensical. Also, given that this article attempts to prove that he is India's best bat, why on earth can he not crack the ODI team?

Posted by ultimatewarrior on (January 4, 2014, 7:26 GMT)

@Srini_Chennai as you are saying Virat is best is correct at the moment but why you are afraid to give chances to Pujara in ODI is not understandable, specially looking after failures of Indian batting on fast bowling friendly pitches in recent years .....Also see his impact after his entry on 9 Oct 2010 India test results are WITH HIM: Played 17 Won 11 Lost 3 and WITHOUT HIM: Played 18 Won 4 Lost 9

Posted by Unomaas on (January 4, 2014, 7:25 GMT)

Before India came to South Africa, all the talk was of Rohit and Kohli. The digital forum boards were a flutter with praise yet here in SAF, we didn't much care for or rate either of them. The wicket we wanted was Pujara!

Pujara does not have weaknesses. He has an iron cast technique...a technique that would even withstand full frontal assault of SAF's best pitches and bowlers. Far from inspiring envy and/or malice in Saffa's, we have nothing but respect and awe for this batsmen. What we Saffa's don't understand is why this feeling is not inspired in Indian fans?

Pujara was defintely born into a batsmen's era where bowlers are weaker and pitches are friendlier but that shouldn't detract from his feats. I just hope he doesn't fizzle out like MEK Hussey and becomes mortal. Greateness awaits him and I will follow his career with interest.

P.S, please don't make him captain. Give it to Kohli and let Pujara just concentrate on batting!

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 6:58 GMT)

My memories of seeing Gavaskar bat are hazy, as my age (in early 30s) would testify. Have had the privilege of seeing Tendulkar and Dravid's entire career. In the present line-up, the parallel of Kohli and Pujara, must be said, are pretty close. Whether it would remain relevant a decade later, is upto these two very fine cricketers. The minor difference is in the fact that Kohli isn't as much of a prodigious talent as Tendulkar was. Obscured as it might be by his brash outward demeanor he is a hardworking lad, who has left all his contemporaries behind by his sheer ambition. Pujara too, isn't quite as classical and blessed with natural rectitude as Dravid was. He again, works very hard to ensure that bottom-hand or instinctive desire to hook doesn't get in the way of his focus and discipline. With time, Pujara will play the sort of innings Dravid used to play circa 2002-04, free-scoring married seamless with technical perfection. And the daddies will flow from Kohli's bat too ..

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 6:52 GMT)

The author of the article must be a middle aged man..

Posted by keerthitommy on (January 4, 2014, 6:51 GMT)

@Srini_Chennai : Pujara will meet the ball more lately than kohli which is needed to play long innings. Kohli is the best batsman in odis but pujara is the best batsman in tests.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 6:49 GMT)

In my opinion, those who prefer Kohli as the best are mostly likers of ODIs and T20s where a batsman needs to be aggressive pretty much early on. On the other hand, those who would like Pujara are more into Test cricket where scoring doesnt necessarily need to be "a run a ball" or more. Like its said in this article, we need both styles. But I still like Pujara for tests! That is the biggest test for a cricketer where one's skill and stamina are tested to the limits.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 6:47 GMT)

further to my earlier comments, with due respect to pujara he can never impose himself on the opposition given his style of play. he can hold a fort but to win the match v'll always need batsmen like kohli or rohit who can change gears at will. Nevertheless his bottom hand style of play will surely spell doom in long run until he makes some subtle changes.Albiet its my personal view. ppl can disagree.

Posted by CricIndia208 on (January 4, 2014, 6:37 GMT)

Indian batsmen are the best in the world, no doubt about that. Unlike the Pakistani bowlers who are overrated and fail even in favourable conditions, Indian batsmen deliver.

Posted by Srikee1987 on (January 4, 2014, 6:34 GMT)

Nice Article Mukul. @cricketsubh For a No.3 to be aggressive, the openers should provide a good start. The reason y Ricky was able to score quickly was because Hayden/Langer/Katich provided good start to the innings. @Karuna Prakash, To a certain extent Pujara might not suit to T20. But the List A avg of 55 deserves a better treatment in ODI side. Kohli when fresh to ODI side was not the one who currently is.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 6:33 GMT)

Pujara has been consistent so far but comparison with gavaskar is not only premature but absurd. most of the indian team related articles r often synchronized with populous sentiments of fans which I find a bit silly. Honestly I was surprised the way pitches panned out in recent SA vs IND series. come SA VS AUS series & pitches will b completely different. Any way a 2 match series can never b a fare reflection of any young indian batsmen coming through the lines leave alone pujara/kohli. let them play at least 10 test matches abroad & then make an assessment.

Posted by Ind_Analyst on (January 4, 2014, 6:16 GMT)

@premendrasinghal, why does he have to do well in IPL to do well in ODIs? Pujara has the highest List A average amongst all others, is performing the best among the test batsmen- so there is no question of ability. Cant see a reason for him required to make 50 in 25 balls vs. his superior ability to make 150 off 150. I can't buy this logic and can't see any reason apart from vested interests of selectors /bcci as to why he is not there.

Posted by xylo on (January 4, 2014, 5:51 GMT)

Aren't we glad that the BCCI called in the mighty West Indies and took care of SRT's last rites?

Posted by Srini_Chennai on (January 4, 2014, 5:50 GMT)

I disagree. Pujara is an excellent batsman, no doubt. But to compare Kohli and Pujara, I would say Kohli is the best. Kohli has as much temperament and patience as Pujara and Kohli is a superior shot maker than Pujara. Kohli can hook/pull better than Pujara. Only problem for Kohli is his ability to make big hundreds which I'm sure he'll eradicate soon. But India is extremely lucky to have 2 best young batsmen in the world. If only we had a couple of more quality pacers to go with.....

Posted by premendrasinghal on (January 4, 2014, 5:19 GMT)

A nice comparison of flamboyance excellence and unflamboyant excellence. Definitely Pujara fit into the test squad very much. But there are few areas where he need to work on No 1. running between the wicket 2. Timing 3. Fielding. I am a big fan of player like him in test cricket. But India require his services in ODIs too when we play outside the continent. As we have seen indian batting is exposed against good fast bowling in South Africa. And it may happen in NZ, Aus and Eng too. We need a player like Dravid in Indian Middle order because the sort inconsistency we have seen in Rohit Sharma,Yuvraj and Raina. He must groove himself to fit into ODI squad. If he show his class in IPL he has a chance in ODI as well.

Posted by DarthKetan on (January 4, 2014, 5:18 GMT)

Why do we need to make him a new someone...Not to sound like a cliche, but he is his own man on evidence. His bottom hand play style is a bit is his pacing of is his aura of solidity/hunger so early in the career. His temperament to bat long might remind people of Dravid, but his back foot horizontal bat shots to square are actually more Tendulkar circa '92, while his appetite for big scores more Sehwag. In all, his own man.

Agree with the assessment though - on present evidence, he IS the best Test bat in India. Now just bring him into the ODI team - we need his solidity outside of the subcontinent, particularly in Aus in WC'15.

Posted by AjayB on (January 4, 2014, 5:16 GMT)

I am glad we have so much talent in batting.

One comment though, I have my money on Ajinkya Rahane. He looks really good and seems to have the temperament. Not to bring down the other two, they are as classy as well, it would be a case of first among equals - but I would reckon Ajinkya will scale greater heights as a test batsman and will provide the support that a Rahul Dravid had once provided.

Posted by Sir_Ivor on (January 4, 2014, 5:07 GMT)

Pujara should ideally have been selected to play for India two years before he was brought in. He was well ready at that stage itself.I say this because I had been following his progress from the U 19 days and he struck as being one definitely destined for greatness, with his dedication and single mindedness apart from his stomach for big scores.As usual, there were many who scoffed at this young man saying that he had made all his runs at Rajkot a graveyard for bowlers of all varieties.It was his temperament and humility that impressed me most.And since he hailed from a part of India from where Ranji, Duleep also came, I was waiting for Cheteshwar to unravel after those early years.We are inclined to go overboard when we see arrogance in batting probably because we are reminded of one Viv Richards.That is not really necessary.Not everyone can belong to the Bombay school of Sunil Gavaskar either.I feel that Pujara is as original as both these legends and will achieve his own greatness.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 5:03 GMT)

I disagree with Mukul's argument that Pujara is the best batsman in this Indian team. Congratulations to Pujara on a brilliant start to his test career and he really is shaping up to become a run machine. Despite this, I still believe Kohli is the better batsman. Mukul said it himself, he is an "all weather" batsmain, a player for all conditions. Kohli has demonstrated this with his solid technique and willingness to get forward as well as take on the short ball. Getting in position early & shaping to pull which Kohli does, is better than fending & trying to ride the bouncing short ball, which Pujara does. The latter technique is less reliable because the gloves and bat rise with the ball & there is a chance of it bobbling up anywhere. Furthermore, Pujara has been caught on the crease at times when he should be getting forward. Both times Steyn dismissed Pujara this series he was caught on the crease. Kohli does take a forward stride so he contacts the ball before it deviates as much.

Posted by CricVenki on (January 4, 2014, 4:49 GMT)

Good article in the literature sense. Why are we obsessed to compare two players who are currently playing saying one is better than the other. Why are we not understanding that this is a team sport and everybody has to contribute and compete with other teams and not among themselves. Have we forgotten what has happened to Peas and Mahesh team in tennis. Let Kohli and Pujara be as they are. Do not create any animosity between them. Both are good players and India needs them both performing at their best all the time.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 4:46 GMT)

kohli is much better batsman thn pujara in all forms of game...virat kohli is not a flat track bully becoz he scored runs in england,australia,west indies and south africa...kohli is best young batsman in world crciket today...

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 4:29 GMT)

one of the best articles i have read in recdent times. no cricket loving india in his mid 40s and 50s can forget sunil and vishy.Hope pujara and kohli rise and stay to that levels.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 4:27 GMT)

Finally, someone who has noticed Pujara.The below two lines summed it up. "Understandable, but wrong. Barring bad knees or an act of God, the pivot of India's batting for the foreseeable future will be Cheteshwar Pujara, not Virat Kohli." "Pujara isn't just the best Test batsman in the Indian team, he is the best young batsman in the Test-playing world." Yes early times to compare him to Gavaskar or Dravid and I am sure he will sketch a legend of his own by the time he retires. However, it has been a long time coming to see a batsmen of his class in international cricket. The technique and temperament is as close to perfection as it can be.

Posted by cricketsubh on (January 4, 2014, 4:24 GMT)

Pujara is a gud young player but in this age of cricket. As a number 3 he need to be get little aggressive and he can do that .

Posted by Mr_Anonymous on (January 4, 2014, 4:18 GMT)

It is too early to comment on the career of Pujara and Kohli. They have just begun. Even if they are able to play a full career (which maybe another 100-150 tests say), it is far too early to comment on their career. The good news is that in the normal case, it would not have been unexpected for the Indian team to be uncompetitive on the batting front for a couple of years after the retirement(s) of Dravid, VVS, Tendulkar and the loss of form for Viru and Gambhir. Instead, we should be heartened to see young players like Pujara, Kohli, Rahane put up their hand for overseas tours. Rohit, Dhawan and Vijay have the talent and need to back it up with good scores on the next overseas tour.

I will agree with one fact that you mentioned. Kohli can definitely learn from Pujara about how to construct a big score or big 100. It is a tremendous dis-service to his talent that even in first-class cricket he has not made a double hundred yet (when Pujara, Rohit and Jadeja have made 300+).

Posted by pulkit10 on (January 4, 2014, 4:13 GMT)

Trying to find Gavaskar or a Dravid in a Pujara or a Tendulkar in a Kohli is inhibitory to the character and skill of these two young lads. Players like Gavaskar, Dravid, Tendulkar, Sehwag etc. are held in such high regard not because they were able to emulate their predecessors well but because they crafted their own paths, stuck to their own strengths and were remarkably successful in doing so. Kohli and Pujara look set to do the same.

Over the last few years, both have demonstrated that they have the skill, temperament and determination to score runs and succeed. Both are distinctly different batsmen with differing strengths and techniques and that makes it hard to say which is a "better batsman" - it's like the Tendulkar/Dravid debate again - both scored mountains of runs for India, can you really devalue either?

Pujara though, is a hugely impressive young player and has the necessary onus to go down as one of the all time greats.

Posted by Karunk on (January 4, 2014, 3:59 GMT)

Pujara is a complete test batsman. As author says, best in the world. He has the patience, concentration of Gavaskar and immaculate technique of Dravid but he has much more. He does not get bogged down like Dravid & Gavaskar. He scores briskly, has much better scoring rate than others in test cricket and has strokes all round the wicket.He is the MVP of India in test cricket and can be successful in ODI (played overseas) if selectors give him a chance. Not sure why selectors are not picking him up. Is it because of his bad knee and they would like to preserve him for test cricket?

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 3:41 GMT)

Hope he will live up to the expectations of the people.Has done well so far lets see what is going to do in 2014

Posted by Emancipator007 on (January 4, 2014, 3:30 GMT)

Ian Bishop speaks about leg-miles for bowlers in ODIs or domestic matches (instead of just nets sessions) which is imp for long Test spells (Johnson's ODI games against accomplished Indian bats & hustling them DEFINTELY helped him for Ashes & in fact Indian cricket connoisseurs were URGING OZ fans/selectors that MJ was a must for ASHES cos they had seen THAT pace first-hand in IPL/ODI series) . Similarly, Pujara being so meticulous & committed about his Test match preparations realized "crease-occupying" time for a batsman was IMP& thus seriously played all domestic games prior to SA tour, scored BIG runs (as usual) which gives him same mindset for Tests. In previous eras, Laxman & Mohinder Amarnath used their exile periods to occupy time & score daddy 100s/200s in domestic cricket to transpose that same gameplan & approach to Tests during their comebacks.

Posted by cantwaittosee on (January 4, 2014, 3:28 GMT)

You never say never but another Gavaskar will be extremely hard to come by....extremely hard. That technical perfection, such attractive elegance, perfection in style, determination to stay at the wicket and score runs, lion heartedness needed to wage the single handed battles he waged for years for India, and that elusive concentration come by once in years.

Pujara is a good batsman though. Wish him the best and hope he keeps scoring runs for India for a long time.

Posted by Emancipator007 on (January 4, 2014, 3:28 GMT)

Pujara's return to Test duties after injury was halted by "other" interests with him being forced to play 'A' tours losing out on OZ'11 tour & WI India tour. He actually deserves to be above even "A" category in contracts but pathetic, short-sighted panel pushed him to B grade. The BEST Test player in India with supreme Test record deserves excellence contract terms & rewards than so-called all-format experts in 'A' category.Puj has actually not defied expectations in SA but LIVED UP to expectations of long-time Test cric connoisseurs of India. Coach Fletcher had told him that his father had made him "Test-ready" & that he needed no finetuning with his game- so focused & disciplined has this young man been. Puj will keep Gavaskar/Tendulkar/Dravid legacy of supreme Indian Test batsmanship alive. Another stat highlight is scoring 100 in every series since comeback against different teams.

Posted by Emancipator007 on (January 4, 2014, 3:24 GMT)

I echoed what Kesavan says on another forum in Joburg Test. Posted by Emancipator007 on (December 21, 2013, 6:15 GMT) Pujara is not Dravid but Gavaskar 2.0 with same temperament, run-scoring hunger & batting gameplan.Dravid while being superb overall used to get bogged down even in India during defensive spells whereas Puj always looks for scoring opportunities & possesses the best ball-selection skills for strokemaking. Pity is that India barely plays an average of 9 Tests per calendar year unlike England which plays 12-14 a year(accounting for rapid 100 Tests careers for Cook,Strauss,Pietersen,Thorpe). Puj might just end up with 120-130 Tests by 36-37 by which time Indian cricket makes noises about "oldie" players. Pujara is the most AMBITIOUS emerging Test player in world cricket & will end up as best Test batsman of this era. Some vested interests are against him making an ODI career to be labeled best overall bat.

Posted by IndianEagle on (January 4, 2014, 2:47 GMT)

kohli is most valuable player than pujara because he is playing all three formats with tons of runs and has contributed in all major tournaments. This does not mean underestimating pujara, but the fact is that.

Posted by yoogi on (January 4, 2014, 2:39 GMT)

Yes, there is a sense of safety when pujara is batting and once he is gone, it looks like there is an imminent collapse. In that way he is prescious to our test team like what tendulkar is to ODI team.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2014, 2:18 GMT)

Good article...even though comparing Pujara to Gavaskar is like comparing Jennifer Lawrence to Meryl Streep....

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Mukul KesavanClose
Mukul Kesavan teaches social history for a living and writes fiction when he can - he is the author of a novel, Looking Through Glass. He's keen on the game but in a non-playing way. With a top score of 14 in neighbourhood cricket and a lively distaste for fast bowling, his credentials for writing about the game are founded on a spectatorial axiom: distance brings perspective. Kesavan's book of cricket - Men in Whitewas published in 2007.
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