The Pujara Grit

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Pujara started his English season a few months back. He played six county matches for Yorkshire. He could manage only 172 runs at an average of 14.33 and a high score of 41. This was not his first county season though. In 2014, he averaged 55 in 3 matches and in 2015, the average was 53 in 4 matches. Pretty decent numbers for a foreign player in England. But since then it has been tough for Pujara. Last season he played 8 matches and could manage only a century and a half century. His average came down to 27.75. But things went from bad to awful in the 2018 season. His position in the Indian team is impacted because of this poor form. The fact that even Ishant Sharma scored a fifty in the same season didn’t make things easier for Pujara.

As expected, Pujara was not picked and KL Rahul was drafted in to play at 3. But luckily for Pujara that didn’t go well. He was called back in for Dhawan and replaced Rahul at 3. Rahul opened the innings. But a poor run call from Virat Kohli saw Pujara back in the hut with 1 run from 25 balls; awful just got pathetic. In the second innings, Pujara tried his best but could only score 17 from 87 balls.

The third test had started and Pujara was looking at a positive start from the openers as against the usual scenario. They managed 60 for the first wicket and now it’s the turn of Pujara to get things right. But the immediate fall of Rahul just after Pujara’s entry meant more pressure on Pujara and he could survive only a few deliveries. His score read 14(31), another failure. If he’s to repeat this one more time, Pujara would lose his place in the team. But heroes rise when the going gets tough.

India is at an advantageous position in the second innings because of the good lead in the first innings. Openers started positively again and made another 60 runs partnership. Once Pujara arrived, Dhawan stayed positive and made things a lot easier for Pujara. They made a 51 runs partnership before Dhawan got out for 44. And with Kohli Pujara batted well to score the first half century of the English season. He got out for 72. A much-needed improvement. This partnership was crucial in extending the lead and thereby helped India win in England!

Kohli decided to stick with the same XI for the first time in his Captaincy career in two consecutive test matches. England got out for 246 thanks to impressive bowling performances by India’s pacers. They have had a wonderful series so far. England could snap out Dhawan and Rahul with the score at 50. Kohli and Pujara at it yet again. They batted really well and took the score past 140 without any further lapses. But Sam Curran angled one across Kohli and Kohli could only edge it behind. Rahane came and went pretty soon. Pant was next and played an uncharacteristic inning. He scored nothing off the 29 balls he faced. Pandya, Ashwin, and Shami came and left without disturbing the scorers much.

India: 195/8, trailing by 51 runs. India’s only chance now would be to try to get to 220 at least and hope the pacers to do it all. Those who have seen Pujara play before would’ve never expected what happened next. He battled it out with Ishant at the other end and took the score to 227 and the chances of taking lead look better now. Ishant got out then for 14. Bumrah is a perfect number 11. He hardly knows to hold the bat. But his attitude deserves applauds. He did what Pujara wanted him to. He was trying to Shadow practice defense when he was at noon strikers end, not once but multiple times. He was ready to do anything to ensure that Pujara will get to the century that he deserved.

Pujara is at 99. Moeen Ali spins one from wide outside off stump and it strikes Pujara’s pads in the 5th stump line. The bat was far away from the striking point and there’s doubt in the English side whether Pujara tried for a shot or not. If not, this can be a wicket and they opted for a review. But the third umpire deemed that the shot was attempted and impact is outside off stump. Pujara was seen calm during all this. The fact that Pujara has been trying to not give the strike to Bumrah also made it difficult to hit the ball somewhere and get a run somehow. But he came down the pitch on the last ball of the over and hit it straight up down the ground. But Pujara’s shot was so weak that the ball went up and almost dropped dead few feet near the boundary. Pujara was aware and was trying to run 3, but could not do so. But he has reached a fine century. After all the struggles in England, he believed in himself and crafted an absolutely gracious ton.

After that, he tried to up the ante and get few more runs. He stepped out and scored few more boundaries. Pujara made 132 and stayed not out. A partnership of the highest quality, 46 runs which took India to an unlikely lead when the score read 195/8. An innings filled with grit, understanding the conditions.

He might be slow and a poor fielder, but Kohli deciding to persist with him was owing to this. Indian fans now hope that Pujara can put the past this behind and be ready for the next innings, next test, and the coming test series as well.

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