New Delhi, January 31
There are times when balls faced matter a lot more than runs scored.
Cheteshwar Pujara was one of India’s stalwarts on the recent tour of Australia, where he faced 928 balls in eight innings and scored 271 runs at a rate of 29.20 runs per 100 balls. He was criticised by some for the low strike-rate, but he believes that the “strike-rate talk” is overrated.
Two years ago, when India won a Test series in Australia for the first time, Pujara made 521 runs at an average of 74.42, with three 100s. He had a strike rate of 41.41, having faced 1258 balls.
But, considering the “extraordinary circumstances” of the recent series that India won 2-1, he rates this effort (271 runs, three 50s) equally special.
“Both tours have been fantastic for the team and personally I did well on both tours but the circumstances were completely different. This time I was starting up after a long time, almost eight months (due to Covid-19), there were no First-Class games also,” Pujara said.
The 31-year-old stood like a rock through the series, quite literally in the final Test in Brisbane, where he took multiple blows on the body to keep a relentless Australian attack at bay. “It wasn’t easy at all in terms of preparation and the Australian team had a thorough game plan for each of us. To get back into rhythm took a little bit of time but luckily all went positive in the end,” Pujara said. “Numbers-wise, it may not look like a very, very good series for me but if you look at the pitches, not many runs were scored this time. It was more challenging than last time without a doubt.”
The 81-Test veteran said the balls faced mattered more than runs scored, given the challenging pace attack, nature of pitches and barrage of injuries that the Indian team suffered through the four games. “Very difficult to compare both the tours but this one is a tad more special considering we had a weaker team with so many youngsters. But I wouldn’t say this is the only best series I have been a part of,” he said. “Even the last series in Australia was tough and the home series too in 2017-18 was among the toughest I have been a part of.”
Slow and steady
As is often the case, Pujara’s strike-rate was a constant subject of debate as he wore down the trio of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc to make things slightly easier for the batsman at the other end.
“There are times when strike-rate hardly matters. Every batter has a role to play. The team management completely understands that. Whether it was Ravi bhai (head coach Ravi Shastri) or Vicky bhai (batting coach Vikram Rathour) or Ajinkya (Rahane), they just told me to keep batting the way I bat,” the India No. 3 said.
The Rajkot cricketer became only the 11th Indian cricketer to cross the 6000-run mark in Tests during the series. He is currently 10th on the list with 6,111 runs at an average of 47.74. “It is a great feeling. Statistically it is a good achievement but I still feel there is still lot to play for and lots to achieve,” he said. — PTI
Fit after the blows
Cheteshwar Pujara was hit 14 times on the body by Australian pacers on Day 5 in Brisbane and was lucky to escape serious injury. “I am much better now. There are still bruise marks but nothing serious. I have almost recovered,” he said. Talking about playing in bio-secure bubbles as the Australia tour was his first one in a controlled environment, Pujara added: “It is not easy, especially the quarantine, it is the toughest one for all players where you can’t even meet each other.”
Tenacity in numbers
2186 balls faced by Pujara in 15 innings over the last two tours of Australia
792 runs made by Pujara over two Test tours of Australia, at an average of 52.8
3 100s and 1 50 made by him in 2018-19, 3 50s on the recent tour