When Cheteshwar Pujara made his entry into the Indian cricket team in 2010, he was compared to Rahul Dravid for his technical acumen and solid defence. After the retirement of Dravid, who hit 13288 runs in Tests at an average of 52, Pujara stepped up to fill the void left by Dravid’s departure. After 68 Tests, Pujara has played a crucial role in India securing history during the recent series in Australia. On January 25, the Saurashtra player, dubbed the ‘New Wall’ of the Indian cricket team, turned 31 and it comes at a time when he is enjoying his best phase as a batsman.
Pujara blasted three centuries in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney to end with 521 runs at an average of 74 as Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team won a Test series in Australia for the first time ever. Each century came at a time of adversity and ensured India held the momentum at crucial intervals during an intensely-fought Test series against an Australian side that were missing some of their star players. Pujara’s century on a tough Adelaide wicket changed the course of the game and his half century in the second innings gave India a 31-run win as India registered a win in an opening Test of a series Down Under for the first time.
After a failure in Perth, Pujara came onto his own with a century on a Melbourne pitch which was difficult to bat on. Along with Mayank Agarwal who hit 76 on debut and Virat Kohli who smashed 82, Pujara was the key factor in India registering a big total. Jasprit Bumrah wrecked the Australian batting with 6/33 as India won a Test in Melbourne after 37 years. His 193 in Sydney and his partnership with Rishabh Pant (159) ensured India clinched history.
On his return, Pujara turned up for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Uttar Pradesh in Lucknow. After falling to Shivam Mavi in the first innings, Pujara played a crucial knock of 67 and a century from Harvik Desai and another fifty from Sheldon Jackson helped Saurashtra chase down 372, the highest-ever score chasing in the fourth innings.
Pujara would be aiming to help Saurashtra enter the final of the Ranji Trophy 2019 and the right-hander would be determined to give his side additional glory after securing history in Australia. A win Down Under and a Ranji Trophy triumph for Saurashtra would be the ideal birthday gift for a player who has established himself as the core of the Indian cricket team batting in Tests.