Cheteshwar Pujara may not be the biggest crowd-pleaser in an Indian team teeming with stroke-makers, but the 29-year-old proved why he is such a crucial cog in the test side with an epic double century today.
India’s number three batsman painstakingly compiled a marathon knock of 202 spread over more than 11 hours to put his team in a strong position in the third test against Australia.
Pujara became the first Indian batsman to face 500 balls in a test innings, further testimony to his unwavering focus and seemingly infinite patience.
“The way Puji was batting at the other end, it did not look like he would ever get out,” Wriddhiman Saha, Pujara’s ally in a 199-run seventh wicket partnership, told reporters.
“Puji has so much patience. He scores 200-300 in domestic cricket almost routinely. He showed great patience today.”
India had made a strong reply to Australia’s first innings total of 451 before opener Murali Vijay jumped out to a Steve O’Keefe delivery only to be stumped.
Even the normally reliable Ajinkya Rahane fell, attempting a ramp shot more suited to Twenty20 cricket.
One of the few India internationals not contracted to any of the franchises in the country’s big-money Twenty20 league, Pujara, however, put a premium on his wicket.
“You have to look at the bigger picture,” the right-hander told Star Sports channel after wearing down the Australian bowlers with his mammoth 525-ball knock.
“When I was batting, I was thinking anyhow we need to get close to that total.
“I was watching the ball really well. I wanted to play more shots but I had to restrict myself because we wanted to build a partnership and I did not want to give my wicket away.”
Pujara’s third double century helped India earn a 152-run first innings lead, drawing praise from Australia coach Darren Lehmann.
“He’s very disciplined and played really well. That’s why he is a class player,” Lehmann said after the fourth day’s play in the first test to be played at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium in Ranchi.
“He bats for a long period of time. His conversion rate from 50 to 100 and 100 to 150 are pretty high.
“When he gets in, he likes to go on with it. That’s a challenge for our bowling group, to find a way to get him out early.”