x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Pujara provides promise for India

Now, with Dravid and VVS Laxman both having retired, Pujara will get the time he needs to create his own niche.

India's Cheteshwar Pujara hit a century against New Zealand in Hyderabad.
India's Cheteshwar Pujara hit a century against New Zealand in Hyderabad.

From the time he topped the Ranji Trophy run charts in 2007/08, Cheteshwar Pujara was marked out for greater things. The next Dravid, said some connoisseurs, impressed by his technique and appetite for long innings. But with India's middle order so settled, even Sourav Ganguly's retirement the following season didn't open doors.

Pujara had to wait until October 2010 for his chance. Having failed in the first innings, he was promoted to No 3 with India needing to chase down a tricky target against Australia. The significance of the move, with Dravid still in the side, was not lost on anyone.

Although he went to South Africa later in the year, there was no easing into the Test side. A knee injury saw to that and, as he recuperated, he watched the likes of Virat Kohli overtake him in the selectors' thoughts.

Now, with Dravid and VVS Laxman both having retired, Pujara will get the time he needs to create his own niche. He batted with tremendous poise and fluency on his way to a first-Test century in Hyderabad yesterday, and his choice of hero should tell you something about his attitude.

"Michael Hussey is a legend and I look up to him," said Pujara, in an interview with Wisden India a couple of months ago. "I've closely assessed his approach to batting and his temperament. He had to score nearly 10,000 runs in domestic cricket before being given a look-in. So I just tell myself to control what is in my hands. In this case, it is to score runs and leave the rest to God." Yesterday, with Indian cricket's reigning deities all failing, Pujara showed that the future isn't as bleak as some imagine.

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