Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
SA v IND (1)
ZIM v IRE (1)
Asia Cup [U19] (2)
IND v ENG (W) (1)
BBL 2023 (1)
WI v ENG (1)
Cheteshwar Pujara was never under pressure from the Indian dressing room, Rohit Sharma has said. Coming with an average of 28 over the last two-and-a-half years, Pujara made his way to a breezy unbeaten 91 as India sought to make a comeback after being bowled out for 78 on the first day. India ended the third day 139 behind with eight wickets in hand.
"To be honest there hasn't been any talk about Pujara's batting," Rohit said when asked what kind of conversations he had had with Pujara, being a senior player himself. "I think the talks are only happening outside. Not a single conversation has happened with Pujara regarding his form inside the team dressing room. We know the quality he brings, we know the experience he brings. When you have a guy like that, I don't think there needs to be much discussion.
"If you talk about his recent performance, yes I mean he has not scored runs but we saw a crucial partnership between him and Ajinkya at Lord's. Not to forget what he did in Australia. Those were crucial innings for us winning that historic Test series in Australia. We tend to forget, our memories are a little bit short.
"We need to think about what the guy has done over the years. It is not about one or two innings or one or two series. It's about what he has done in his entire career. I understand current form, but the current form doesn't happen in one innings. Over a number of years he has done well, and that needs to be considered when we talk about someone like him."
Sharma was impressed with the ruthlessness Pujara showed every time England offered him a loose ball. Especially at a time when Sharma himself scored at a strike rate of 37.82.
"He definitely came with an intent to score runs," Sharma said of Pujara. "This innings of ours was never about survival. Our intent was to score runs, and Pujara clearly showed that. The way he got off the mark and then carried on from there. Anything loose, he was ready to pounce. Shows that he had an intent in his batting. That really helps when you have that sort of intent: any loose deliveries will not be spared.
"With Pujara we have seen over the years that he is a very disciplined batter. Yes of late runs haven't come but that doesn't mean that quality of Pujara is gone missing, the quality is always there. You must have seen today the way he batted. Not the easiest situation to bat when you are 300 behind. The way he batted shows the character of the individual, and shows the mindset of an individual as well. Somebody who has gone everywhere and scored."
However, Sharma was quick to point out that while Pujara might have taken the heat off himself, he still owes the team a big one. "From his perspective, he batted really well, but the team's job is not done yet," Sharma said. "We have got a crucial couple of days coming. Hopefully he can still put his head down and keep batting the way he does."
Sharma too played a big role in India still being alive in the Test. He faced 156 balls when the bowling was at its most menacing, scored yet another fifty, but the big hundred away from home still eludes him. "The three-figure mark is the last thing on my mind," he said. "What is on my mind is how I can get the team into a good position. How I can build a big partnership with the batter I am batting with. Those are things that I am thinking about. All those things, three-figure mark, will happen if it has to happen. I am not thinking about it. What I am thinking about is, how we can win this game."
Sharma said he was pleased with how well the batters had come back from the "poor" display on the first morning. "To be honest we batted poorly in the first innings," he said. "They bowled pretty good balls, yes, but it was definitely not a 78 pitch. We batted poorly and as a batting unit we accepted that we batted poorly. We corrected our mistakes in the second innings, which is why we are in this position right now.
"It's all about how you learn from your mistakes, and we made some silly mistakes when we batted first, which we corrected in the second innings. It is all about how quickly you can learn from your mistakes. Right now we have batted very well in the three sessions we have batted. Tomorrow again will be a crucial day for us. Hopefully all the batters along with the two in the middle can put their head down and bat as long as possible and see how much we can get."