September 27, 2016 2:33:16 am
One perceptible in Cheteshwar Pujara’s batting in the Kanpur Test, wherein he registered two half-centuries, was the pace at which those runs have come. In the first innings, his 62 came off only 109 deliveries, that is a brisk strike rate of 56.88, the most by any Indian batsman who had consumed more than 50 deliveries. In the second innings, he scored 78 off 152 balls, bringing up his half-century in only 80 balls.
Though Pujara is not an outlandishly defensive batsman—though the public perception is such—he has been of late a little restrained, perhaps a little too over-conscious of his lack of big hundreds after the one he got in the third Test in Sri Lanka last year. . A case in point was his laborious 46 against the West Indies in Sabina Park in July, wherein he consumed 159 balls for his 46.
Apparently, after the match, which ended in a draw thanks to a resolute middle-order resistance by West Indies lower order in the second innings, Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble sat with Pujara and told him to improve his strike-rate.
The Indian skipper, responding to Sandeep Patil’s revelation about the discussion to a Kolkata-based channel, ABP Live, revealed much the same in the post-match press conference.
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“In the West Indies, what we spoke about was the need for (upping the ante). Obviously he (Pujara) is someone who absorbs pressure really well, but after a certain stage in the innings there comes a time when the team needs a few runs in those situations and that’s where we felt that he has enough ability to capitalise. So it was just about conveying that to him. He has worked hard on his game. He scored at a good strike-rate in Duleep Trophy and even on this wicket he was (at times) scoring at a 65, almost 70, strike-rate, which for me was a revelation.
Patil had, in that interview, likened Pujara’s contrasting performances to Dilip Kumar’s popular film Ram aur Shyam. “We saw Ram in West Indies. We have been witnessing Shyam here and this is real Cheteshwar Pujara. Not only Virat, Kumble and national selectors too spoke to Pujara in the Caribbean, asking him to improve his strike-rate,” Patil said.
Anyway, Pujara has responded spectacularly, much to Kohli’s delight. “He used to bat this way, especially in home conditions, when he scored his double hundred knocks against England and Australia. He would dominate the spinners and that was exactly what we wanted him to do. We didn’t want him to go into a shell. We want Pujara to bat to his potential. Once he starts scoring runs, along with the composure that he has, it will be very difficult for the opposition to have the control of the game. And that’s all we wanted to convey to him and he is someone who understands what the team wants and he has worked hard on his game,” said Kohli.
“He has come back and he is playing more positively that we as a team and me personally as a captain really appreciate. He didn’t tell us that ‘this is my comfort zone and I’m not going to get out of it’. That’s the kind of character you need in a team to win games,” Kohli added.
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