New Delhi - In-form Cheteshwar Pujara isn't the flashiest
batsman but his staying power at the crease is winning the admiration of
cricketing purists - and could be vital in India's crunch final Test against
Pujara faced 525 balls over more than 11 hours of play
during his double century against Australia in the drawn third Test, displaying
a doggedness absent from most modern-day batsmen.
The right-hander's tenacity is delighting fans of old-school
batting and made him the unlikely hero of a series where skipper Virat Kohli
has flopped with just 46 runs in three matches.
Pujara was involved in a marathon, 199-run seventh-wicket
stand with Wriddhiman Saha in Ranchi, and is India's leading scorer in the
tight series with 348 runs, 23 behind top-placed Steve Smith.
"I can say that at times, I am in that zone where
things are happening for me because of that experience," Pujara told
reporters ahead of the winner-takes-all Test in Dharamsala starting Saturday.
"Because I know how to do things, how to continue
batting and how to continue concentrating for longer periods of time.
"I don't really think when I am batting out there in
the middle. I try and keep my mind really blank," he explained.
Pujara, 29, wasn't snapped up for the forthcoming edition of
the glitzy Indian Premier League, which is all about big-hitters smashing
sixes, but is winning plaudits for his ability to defend his wicket.
"I think his strong point is patience. He wants to stay
at the wicket, grind the bowler (down). At the same time he is a very good
stroke player," former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin said.
Pujara's epic knock saw him displace Kohli to take second
spot in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test batting charts behind
Australia skipper Smith.
During the second Test he crossed the 2 000 mark for runs in
a single first-class season, joining an elite group of Indian batting greats
including Azharuddin, Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath.
Pujara, who was called "priceless" by Kohli after
the Ranchi game, where he recorded his third Test double century, has averaged
over 51 in 47 Test matches with 11 hundreds. He made his Test debut in 2010.
Sports historian and journalist Boria Majumdar said Pujara,
who's been overlooked by IPL franchises for three consecutive seasons now, is
part of "a (dying) breed of Test match players" who need to be
"protected" by the Indian cricket board.
"I don't actually care what keeps him out of IPL, but
what I do care is that some Johnny who's a 21-year-old hitting three sixes gets
a million-dollar contract and Pujara slogging for India 500 balls 10-12 hours
doesn't get an IPL contract," Majumdar said.
"Exceptions need to be made for a Pujara-like player
and he should be rewarded out of turn in a manner that people prioritise Test
cricket," added Majumdar, who co-wrote Sachin Tendulkar's autobiography.
The fourth and final Test against Australia starts in
Dharamsala on Saturday with the ill-tempered series on a knife-edge at 1-1.