Harsh English conditions force India to rely on Pujara. Could he win it for India?

Nothing beats experience. This is the ultimate mantra in every sector. Cricket is no stranger to this theory. Veterans with experience have thrashed youngsters with talent countless times. Take Chennai Super Kings, for example. With a seasoned squad to use in their 2019 and 2021 campaigns, the MSD-led side reached the finals on both occasions, winning on the latter edition. Making light of experience can prove to be fatal. The selectors had kept this factor in their minds while picking up the squad for the rescheduled 5th Test match against England when India was touring England back in September of 2021. One of the major changes in the squad includes the return of Cheteshwar Pujara.

Cheteshwar Pujara, the veteran warhorse for India, has quite a tale to tell. In early 2021, when India was touring Australia, Pujara played a crucial role. His tenacity and patience became the backbone of the Indian line-up. In the absence of the stalwarts like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah, Pujara took the brunt of the venomous deliveries from the vicious Aussie pacers. His grit allowed the youngsters like Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant to bat freely and counter-attack.

Image Credits: timesofindia.com

Life was good for the Test side. Pujara dropped the anchor on one end, saving his wicket. This allowed his partner to move freely and play their shots. But all good things come to an end. Pujara soon fell into a slump. He couldn’t drop his anchor, and even if he did, runs came at an annoyingly slow pace. The warhorse who conquered the Gabba was nowhere to be seen. Pujara’s bad form continued. The team kept backing him, but there’s a limit to everything. Soon he was dropped from the side.

This gave Pujara the time he needed to think. After a lot of deliberation, the seasoned batsman decided to play County Championship. Long heralded to be one of the best tournaments to improve a player’s technique, County Cricket was the perfect option for Pujara. The Saurashtra lad quickly found his flaws and worked on them relentlessly.
Effort always pays, and it surely did in Pujara’s case. The right-hander has scored 720 in 8 innings so far and is showing no signs of slowing down. Pujara finding his mojo back can indicate positive signs for the Indian Test side.

India has long played a counter-attacking form of batting. While one batsman faces tougher bowlers and defends with his all, the other goes after less intimidating bowlers and scores freely. Pujara has long played the role of sheet anchor. His ability to stand out there for a whole day can scare any bowling attack on the planet. With Pujara in the mix, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli can play their natural game. Who knows if Pujara might uphold a fort with a comeback century? Time will tell. Stay tuned with The Sportsway for more updates.

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