Cheteshwar Pujara today stood tall amid all the pressure created by Dhamika Prasad during India’s batting, scoring a marvelous century to guide India to a more than decent score against Sri Lanka on Day Two of the third and final Test at Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) Stadium, Colombo. Pujara,touted as the new ‘wall’ absorbed the pressure like a sponge as the rest of India’s batting showed a lack of patience and crumbled under pressure as Dhammika Prasad broke the back of the Indian batting line up. Pujara found an able ally in No. 9 Amit Mishra, who played positively to add 59 for the eighth wicket and help India to recover from from180/7 .
Earlier, Pujara who was brought in place of an injured Vijay offered a resounding reminder of his worth and silenced all his critics by grinding out for the first hour and a half before cutting loose just before lunch.
Riding high on his century in the first innings of the first test, Virat Kohli and Pujara faced off a difficult morning spell from Prasad and Nuwan Pradeep, but the former fell off the first delivery bowled by Angelo Mathews. This was the first time a Sri Lankan skipper got an Indian Skipper out.
Pujara looked like “The Wall 2.0″ in the morning session. He left the balls well and defended with soft hands not giving any chance to close in fielders, showing immense patience and concentration. Though he was stuck on 31 for a few overs, not finding a loose ball to score but the moment Tharindu Kaushal arrived, Pujara took him apart scoring 3 boundaries in his over . The first ball was driven to cover for a boundary, the next was a short ball and cut to third man for another boundary, while the third was driven past point for the third in three balls.
Earlier he had somehow not felt at home in the longer format of the game he is regarded to be ideally suited to, Test cricket, in the past year and a half. With just Two half-centuries in 20 innings despite starts ,he had his back against the walls but he stomped his authority with style today. After not being purchased by any Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise this year, he signed for Yorkshire, and subsequently got a call for national duty after playing for India A.
Despite his poor form in the recent past Pujara’s average in Tests, however, is a decent 47.11, because of the impressive start he provided to his career with two centuries and two double-centuries within a span of the seven months since he became a regular in the side after the retirement of Rahul Dravid. He was known to be a mature accumulator of runs, one who cuts his risks, puts a price on his wicket and refrains from exaggerated style for maximum results. The duo of Virat Kohli and Pujara failed in the England tour but while Kohli made up for his failures on the Australia tour, Pujara didn’t perform well there.
Rohit Sharma, who replaced Cheteshwar Pujara scored 79 in the first innings at the P Sara Oval to redeem himself after a string of poor performances has prompted the captain to keep him in the team, and include Pujara as an alternative only due to an injury to their first-choice opener Murali Vijay.
Like he displays in his batting, the answer is patience. He will hope that the phase will pass the mist will clear. He has achieved his first target and done justice t o his place at the SSC Colombo, by batting long, and thereby taking steps to make up for lost bargaining power.