Cheteshwar Pujara, the soft-spoken India cricketer hailed as “gentleman” among his peers probably rattles Australians the most. The fact that India was able to get a like for like replacement for Rahul Dravid so soon after his retirement could single-handedly balance all the bad luck of 2020. He has become just the 11th Indian test player to surpass 6000 runs. Not just that but he has done it quicker (134 innings) than some of the greats like Ganguly (159), De Villiers (137) Clarke (135) and Azharuddin (143).
With a record like that, he probably deserves statues to his name, however, he rarely occupies any limelight. Pujara just goes about his business on the field and when the job is done, he’s happy to enjoy life away from the cameras. Hell, even racist nickname could not break him. He carried himself with grace despite being nicknamed “steve” by the English players and commentators. Some other player would have made a hill out of the controversy and milked it for his fame but he did not create any fuss over it. Despite being the backbone of the Indian test team on tour he hardly demands attention as some of the others in the team. Of course, the players know his worth, but he’s rarely lauded as he should be by the fans and the media.
Australia must have been sick of the guy
Pick any test match from last 2 years and play any of Indian innings randomly, there is 25% chance that Pujara would be at the crease making life miserable for the Australias. Since 2018 Australia have bowled 7250 balls to the Indian batsmen out of which 1881 have been faced by Pujara alone. That’s one in every 4 balls! Bowlers could be seen the happiest after taking his wicket because they know, half their job is done when Pujara gets out. He has been a consistent nuisance for the Australians for quite a few years now. His wicket is celebrated like a sure shot at the win.
IPL is not all there is to cricket
Pujara went unsold in last year’s IPL but despite that, he hasn’t tried to change his style. He seems unfazed by his rejection and instead of trying to play more explosive shots he has focussed on his strengths. He has become even more assured of his game in Test cricket. His wicket carries even more value as he plays with much more confidence than before. A snub from the IPL would have driven another player to bad form and exit from the team but Pujara has gone from strength to strength now becoming the most important player of the team. While talking about his IPL snub he said, “I have seen players like Hashim Amla go unsold so it isn’t much of a surprise”.
There is a quote by Andy Bernard from The Office, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them”. We must not sideline Pujara in the midst of all the other more popular players that we regret it later on. “Che Pu” is an incredible player and we should praise him while he’s still playing for the country.