Kaustubh Pawar the quintessential Mumbai batsman, says coach
Kaustubh Pawar came out to bat at No. 3 yesterday and saw Mumbai lose half their side with 60 runs on the board. A day later, he calmly got forward to ease the final delivery of day two to the long-off boundary to take Mumbai to 346 for 7. It was Pawar's 322nd delivery, many of which had beaten him. Some of them had him falling to the ground as he looked to avoid them. One of them even hit him on the helmet. But he battled through it all for almost eight hours to end unbeaten on 160 and put his side on top.
Pawar, 21, defied a testing Madhya Pradesh attack in the pressure situation of a knockout game in his debut first-class season. More importantly, he did it despite struggling to find rhythm in his batting till he reached three figures. It was the kind of single-minded devotion to the cause that Mumbai needed, and coach Sulakshan Kulkarni hailed Pawar as the quintessential Mumbai batsman. "What is a Mumbai batsman? Someone who can play with that khadoos [defiant] attitude," Kulkarni said. "Someone who can stand all day and make a hundred in 250 deliveries. Pawar is that kind of batsman."
Kulkarni said that Pawar's presence was vital in a line-up that contains stroke-makers like Suryakumar Yadav and Wasim Jaffer. "The phase that the Mumbai team is currently in, we needed someone like him. We need someone who can hold one end up. There are a lot of stroke-makers in this team. But you also need a player in the Rahul Dravid mould. Kaustubh fits that role.
"He has been given that role. Surya [Yadav] is the free bird of the side. He has the mandate to go out and play strokes. Kaustubh cannot do what Surya does, and vice versa."
Kulkarni also said that with the advent of the IPL, batsmen had started to play a lot of shots in the air. Having a batsman like Pawar who was able and willing to bat in the conventional way was a huge positive for Mumbai, he said. "If you observe, he hardly played a shot in the air. In these times, it is extremely difficult to find a batsman who plays shots along the ground. I can recall only one more name among the current lot who does that: Cheteshwar Pujara. It is extremely valuable to have such a player."
Pawar had had a discussion with his coach before the start of play today with Mumbai 122 runs behind and had assured him that he would not throw his wicket away. "I had told him to hang in there, and he had promised me that he will remain unbeaten at stumps today, which he did," Kulkarni said.
Pawar said his mandate was to tire the MP bowlers out which he was able to do successfully. "There was a little nervousness given the situation we were in. We knew that the first 30-45 minutes would be crucial. I and Hiken [Shah] were able to get through that period. They were bowling well initially but later got tired."
There was no weariness in Pawar's demeanour though. As soon as he hit the last ball of the day for four, he walked back eagerly with a broad smile towards a grateful Mumbai dressing-room. A maiden double-hundred, which Pawar said he has never made in a "big match", beckons.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo