India v Australia, 3rd Test, Ranchi, 3rd day March 18, 2017

Patience makes Pujara the batsman

With his impeccable defensive technique, Cheteshwar Pujara is never flustered when the runs don't come as easily
30

For a bottom-handed player, Cheteshwar Pujara has found a way to be quite good on the drive © Associated Press

Batting in Tests is like driving through any big city. There are moments when you should drive carefully, out-manoeuvre traffic, and then accelerate when you get safe passage. Cheteshwar Pujara is excellent at this. He starts fairly slowly, taking the time he needs to get his feet moving decisively, and picks up after crossing a half-century. Eventually he just hits cruise control.

Strong defence
Irrespective of how quickly you score in Tests, you end up blocking about 70% of deliveries and so it is imperative to have an impeccable defensive technique. Pujara's game is built on his ability to keep the good balls out for a really long period of time. He has the patience to not worry about where his next run will come from, and his game plan is sacrosanct with regards to his scoring areas.

When his stumps are threatened, he plants his front foot fairly straight down the pitch, allows the ball to come to him and defends everything in between the shoulders. The only flaw in his defensive game is a collapsing back knee, which creates a slight gap between bat and pad. Bowlers can exploit this on pitches with lateral movement.

Game against spin
Pujara chokes his bat on the handle and uses his dominant bottom hand to create power and find gaps. Against offspin, since he rarely hits over the top, his focus is always to get as close to the pitch of the ball as possible to drive through mid-on or the covers.

His combination of solid defence and quick feet forces offspinners to drag the length shorter, thereby playing into Pujara's hands. Like all bottom-hand batsmen, he is extremely strong off the back foot. He has a huge range of strokes on both sides of the pitch.

Against left-arm spinners, Pujara prefers to stay rooted to the crease. He wears them down by defending ball after ball, which in turn leads to a few short, hittable balls. Patience, being intangible, is an underrated skill. But every knock that Pujara plays highlights its importance.

The collapsing back leg that causes trouble against pace allows him to stay beside the line of the ball against spin thereby allowing him to create width when there is none.

O'Keefe tried bowling outside leg stump, hoping Pujara will get tempted into sweeping, but the best part of Pujara's batting is that he has a list of do's and don't's and he religiously adheres to it. If he doesn't want to sweep, no amount of temptation will make him sweep.

Driving
For a bottom-hand batsman, Pujara drives quite well. His collapsing back leg often makes sure he stays low and it helps keep the ball along the ground.

Driving is all about transferring your body weight at the right time and using your wrists to find the gaps. Pujara controls his bottom hand nicely to place the ball to the right of cover and the left of mid-on when the line of attack is on and around off stump. When the bowler goes straighter, he hits to the left of square leg. Having access to such a wide range of drives is why teams find it tough targeting Pujara with full deliveries.

Bouncers
Four months ago, in Rajkot, Chris Woakes pinged Pujara on the helmet twice. It was quite apparent that his wide stance and a trigger movement of the front foot across onto off stump got him into a tangle against the short ball.

Since then Pujara has narrowed his stance a little and has begun moving his front foot straighter down the pitch. Crucially, he doesn't let the trigger movement force him into playing a shot and this has allowed him to leave the bouncers better.

The only time he is troubled is when the ball isn't a bouncer (the length at which he can't duck) and he tries to ride it. His low grip on the bat coupled with the collapsing back knee prevent him from getting on top of the delivery. In this series, Pujara has been dismissed twice to lifters from Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

Pujara is a throwback to the era gone by for his methods are quite similar to the successful Test batsmen of 1970s and 80s. Those were the times of manual cars, not automatics, and his batting epitomises the importance of shifting gears while building a Test innings.

Aakash Chopra is the author of three books, the latest of which is The Insider: Decoding the craft of cricket. @cricketaakash

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gomathi on March 19, 2017, 9:00 GMT

    Akash Chopra, you are a better writer than most, and you should be one of the prime commentators for your flair and variety. Pathetic the present commentary is

  • rjohnr2835348 on March 19, 2017, 7:49 GMT

    Well played by Cheteswar Pujara

  • P Subramani on March 19, 2017, 4:57 GMT

    I am unable to understand what Akash means by the expression " his back foot collapses".causing him problems in batting. Do these collapses occur while playing at home or abroad as well ? I wish someone if not Akash himself can clarify.

  • Thomas on March 19, 2017, 4:05 GMT

    I think Poojara is way above many of the current test players in India to start with. His style of batting is tailor-made for test cricket. It is good that he is not picked in IPL because it will be a huge loss for the team that picks him and secondly, it will be a huge loss for India to have someone of his class to be messed up in a crazy T20 cricket.

    Nicholls cannot be compared to Poojara because:

    Poojara : 46 tests 3539 runs 206 highest 49.84 average 10 hundreds 14 fiftees

    Nicholls: 13 tests 607 runs 118 highest 33.72 average 1 hundred 4 fiftees

  • amitme5412589 on March 19, 2017, 3:52 GMT

    He needs to grow muscles to score triple century and get a place in onedayers and t20. His patience matches with dravid and gwaskar. Get him some heavy food

  • visuna5821605 on March 19, 2017, 1:12 GMT

    The entire article revolves around one observation of the author about the 'collapsing back knee' - is it really that vital ?

  • Ron on March 18, 2017, 19:15 GMT

    Absence of runs from Kohli, and the lower middle order is hurting Ind badly in this series. Kohli needs to focus on making runs rather than statements from now on. Smoth must be laughing at how cheaply Aus have got these batsmen all series with a large number of really loose dismissals. If Ind wants to have any realistic chance of saving or winning this match then Kohli needs to score big. Cannot afford a captain who only fires verbal volleys while getting out to half volleys.

  • cricfan2129267109 on March 18, 2017, 18:50 GMT

    I feel Pujara is 1000 times better than Kholi in tests. He should be the test captain and remive all players who treat tests as one dayer

  • ilamuhil on March 18, 2017, 18:48 GMT

    We need Pujara in IPL. I dont know why 8 teams of IPL has not taken him. Any one afraid or having fear about his talent???

  • chatwi7475393 on March 18, 2017, 18:35 GMT

    Kohli Rahane vijay throws their wickets. Put value for ur wkt pls. Don't be over confident

  • No featured comments at the moment.