Cheteshwar Pujara India England
Cheteshwar Pujara's inclusion in the side for the Lord's Test would be crucial for India. Image Courtesy: Getty

Let’s address the Elephant in the room right away. Cheteshwar Pujara may not be close to the elegance of Rahul Dravid, but the gritty right-hander has one common aspect with his role model.

Very much like Rahul Dravid, Pujara has the stomach for a sheer fight and doesn’t bog down in between adversities. It is a big reason, why India will need his services for the second Test against England at the Lord’s, which begins on August 9th.

Having begun on the series on a sombre note, Lord’s offers a great chance for India to make a comeback in the series. If there was one venue where India would have loved to square the numbers, it would have to be the picturesque Lord’s.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Aakash Chopra, India, England
Cheteshwar Pujara exclusion from the playing XI would leave me surprised, says Aakash Chopra. Image Courtesy: Getty

It was right here on the previous tour when MS Dhoni’s side registered a fine win in the second Test of the series. Cheteshwar Pujara, a regular member of the team on that tour, got just a solitary half-century to his name. Nevertheless, it was a fine learning curve for the young man, who has now piled on several centuries.

With a Test average of 50.34, Pujara isn’t new to playing the big innings. There are absolutely no doubts about his ability in Asia, as the India number three has piled on runs with sheer ease and grace. However, question marks begin to appear for Pujara when he tours outside the subcontinent.

Why Pujara?

The one disheartening aspect about India’s batting performance at Edgbaston was the show of the top-order. Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul perished without leaving a mark and in particular, it was the latter duo who fell off nothing shots. What India needed at Birmingham was someone who could resist the might of the English bowlers and battle it out in the middle?

England vs India 2018, Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara was dropped from the first Test for India against England – Credits – Getty Images

Time was never the issue for the side, as it was sheer haste which cost India with the bat in both innings. It was painful to see Virat Kohli fighting a lone battle against some top class bowling. All that he needed here was someone who could hold up an end for him, while he could effortlessly accumulate the runs. Maybe, this is where he missed Cheteshwar Pujara?

With an ocean of patience in his approach, Cheteshwar Pujara very rarely does gift his wicket away. GIFT. This word sadly is pretty synonymous to the approach of Rahul and Dhawan, renowned for throwing away their hard-earned starts.

Numbers Crunch

To witness the significance of Pujara in this lineup, one does not need to look beyond the tour of South Africa. In South Africa, across the three Tests, Pujara faced an average of 67.5 deliveries per innings. On the other hand, regular opener M. Vijay played 59.8 deliveries across the tour. KL Rahul, who played in the last couple of Tests in South Africa, faced an average of 25.25 deliveries per innings.

It is precisely where Pujara stands out. His ability to grind the bowlers down, and reduce the venom of the red new shining ball is simply an asset worth having in the side.

Underrated Knock at Jo’burg

It is appalling to find people not crediting Cheteshwar Pujara enough for his gritty half-century at Johannesburg. On the first day of the Test, as batting remained a task too tough, Pujara battled all adversities. His 179-ball knock of 50 ensured the Indian bowlers had a decent total to bowl at in the first innings.

Cheteshwar Pujara India England
Cheteshwar Pujara’s ability to derail the new ball has been an asset. Image Courtesy: Getty

The knock was so impactful that it ensured the Proteas didn’t gain a substantial lead and India were in the game. He might have looked not too elegant playing that knock, but in the context of the game, it was pure gold.

On any given day, that knock of 50 at Johannesburg was worth a double century on a flat deck back home in India.

Bottom Line 

Having said everything, Cheteshwar Pujara must walk back into the playing XI against England. One of Shikhar Dhawan or KL Rahul will have to make way for Pujara, as at this moment, India needs patience, grit and determination, and not FLAMBOYANCE.

Krishna Chopra

A cricket buff who lives the game fully. A die hard supporter of the Indian cricket Team. Sachin Tendulkar remains my inspiration.