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Che Pujara is the new Che Pujara

by Gaurav Sethi

My gym instructor, Ravi, makes small cricket talk. Today, out of nowhere he got on to match fixing. I got on to Zulqarain Haider. His tangent took to naming big names in Indian cricket – surely these guys don’t fix? According to him only chota players fix.

I was unbothered, getting a reverse-grip on my triceps pushdown. Then he took Pujara’s name. Along with Dravid’s. Called them alike, slow players. I had just finished my set. I barked at him. No, he had not watched Pujara’s double. He got a mouthful from me – on how fast Che scores, his scoring areas, his strokes. Ravi was unfazed.

I think he believes what he’s been made to believe – that Cheteshwar Pujara is the new Rahul Dravid. And because he only checks facebook on his phone there’s very little likelihood that he will watch that Che double.

This one generalisation has done Che more harm than good. If you’re a Dravid-fanboy then this is heresy. If you’re a Dravid-baiter then Che is a slowpoke. If you’re too much of a realist, then it’s always, “let’s see how he plays overseas”.

If you are like me, something of a Dravid-Che fan boy, their uniqueness and sameness both meet with a tight embrace.

Must admit I’ve found the comparison, however flawed, not without basis. Both are No. 3 Test batsmen – and I reckon, no matter what Che does from here, he will always be remembered as just that. And because he was Dravid’s successor, and so far a more than able one at that, the lazy comparison will continue.

Both are studious in play, thoughtful in comment, model sportspersons it seems. Both appear to have always been married. Both are January born. Both have played for RCB. Yeah, yeah, this can go on and on.

Both will never get their due. Both will have to contend with far glossier cricketers. In spite of everything both will never be remembered as limited overs’ players.

But you can’t cut the commentary of an archived Dravid innings and paste it on Che’s batting. They both love the onside but play their shots in your mind’s eye and you know they’re acutely different. For Dravid it was that scoop over midwicket, for Che it’s played down, from middle or even off sometimes, into the ground, squarer.

Very early days for Che, but going by his past few innings, his strike rate will be on the up. In his last double he was striking at 60, in his first he was at 53, his career strike rate is 50.59 from 11 Tests, 18 innings. Dravid’s was 42.51. Do you know what Kohli’s is – 45.96 from 16 Tests, 27 innings. Even IPL wonder-boy Murali Vijay’s is at 48.17.

But how we love to typecast our players. Just because Che is not an IPL poster-boy he’s not a quick gun like Vijay. The misconceptions seep through cracks in dementia ridden commentary. They’re said again and again till Ravi-instructor is convinced Che is a slowpoke like Dravid.

If Ravi listens to them long enough he will be convinced that he has limited shot options – never mind he is one of the few Indian Test bats who can slap a six over square leg. He may have occasionally died by the pull but how many know he breathes life into that shot?

Leave ball after ball after ball, yet another limitation, as is using your feet to the spinners, square cutting latitudes, full faced longitudes, and the equatorial swat – this man is geographic in his short-play, but it will take a foreigner yet again for us Indians to take notice.

Are we deliberately naive or myopic out of neglect? It took a while for the masters in the box to realise Umesh Yadav’s worth and going by experience, they’re working meticulously on Che too.

This man has a beard. Which disappears for the presentation. He speaks in double entendre without knowing it. Straight faced and smiling, here’s a treasure, committed to cricket, like Sunny once was when he was out of the box.

I just check the twitter feed for Pujara and here’s what I read:  Last few matches have proved that #pujara is todays #dravid #formmeirehnabhai

I prefer this tweet by @paperstargirl


ram said...

I wasn't too sure about Pujara until I watched him bat at Chepauk. At the ground, sometimes you can see things you don't get on TV. He made only 44, but his footwork and the way he was so assured at the crease at a time when India was in trouble was something else. I ve watched Dravid bat many times, most memorably when Sehwag got 300 at the other end & it was entirely different watching him. Especially with him sweating buckets, great batsman that he was, you felt that he let the bowlers control the situation. Dravid's shot-making was much more elegant in comparision, mostly because Pujara is also much more bottom-handed than you realise at first on TV.

Bhaskar Khaund said...

"But you can’t cut the commentary of an archived Dravid innings and paste it on Che’s batting". LIKE !!!

Cricket Fan said...

Cheteshwar Pujara has been phenomenal the way he is scoring runs so quickly. If he continues this brilliant form out of India, he may become the fastest 2000, 3000 or even 5000 run scorer in test cricket. What do you guys think is his ODI future? He seems good for ODI as well.