Cheteshwar Pujara has been the fulcrum of India’s batting line-up since he debuted for India in 2010. The 2012 England tour to India was when he cemented his position in the team. He got a 200 in the very first test. He has gone from strength to strength thereafter. Pujara’s record at home was indisputable but chinks were visible in his armor when touring overseas.
He may have had bad tours in certain countries, however, he made sure that he comes back stronger in the subsequent tour. This was on display when he scored a dodged 153 against South Africa in 2013. This innings had silenced the critics who questioned his credentials in overseas conditions.
Pujara moved from strength to strength over the years. He scored vital runs, both home and abroad. In the 2018 England series, he was dropped from the first test and India ended up losing that by a mere 31 runs. Pujji was back in the team in the second test and showed the team his utility. He scored a spectacular 132 not out in the third test and got a 72 in the second test. He ended the series with a decent average of 40.
Following the England tour, India went to Australia. This tour was an ode to Pujara’s tenacity and grit. He started the series with a wonderful 123 in the first test. Proceeded to score 71, 106, and 193 in the series. Pujara was a one-man show and was instrumental in winning the series for the very first time.
In his last three series since 2020, he has averaged 26.35 compared to his 49.48 earlier. Until 2019, his strike rate used to be 46.49 which has further dropped to 30.20. His last big innings came in the 2020-21 Australia series when scored 50 and 77 in the Sydney test. His last century came on the Australia tour of 2018-19. He has not been able to score a century in nearly three years now. He hasn’t been able to get even one century in the last 30 innings.
His WTC Finals match was another failure in the long list of bad performances. He could manage 8 and 15 respectively. His second innings performance came under heavy criticism because it was not necessary for him to score big runs. He needed to guzzle as many balls he could and blunt the bowling.
With him failing to achieve his primary role, the pressure piled on Rahane and Kohli. Pujara’s lean patch has resulted in critics calling for him to be dropped. With India taking on England for the 5 match series and then traveling to South Africa later this year, pundits have called for a little rejig in the batting. Youngsters and players like Rahul are likely to replace Pujara.
In our opinion, this would be a disastrous decision. Sure, he has failed to live up to his billing but this man has time and again proven why he is Mr. Dependable. He played the long and arduous innings in the last Australia tour and scored a mountain of runs in the tour before that. He has performed in South Africa before. Every player goes through a patch like this and it is for the team management to support players in such times. Pujara is a player of grit and determination, we are sure that he will make a roaring comeback in the England series.