It is interesting that the rise of Cheteshwar Pujara coincided with the fall of Rahul Dravid. In the 2010s, Team India looked set to walk out on some of the big tickets.
Sachin Tendulkar was there to stay but names like Dravid and VVS Laxman were facing the heat not because of their inconsistent runs but because of the pressure created by the next generation of Test match batsmen – Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and of course Pujara. Were staying
Against this backdrop, the 22-year-old made his debut against Australia in Bangalore and scored a blistering 72 off just 89 balls.
Along with Master, he helped India chase down a difficult target of 207 and helped India finish the series 2–0.
But it was not Pujara who would showcase the decade to come. In fact, this knock was aberration. It was his ability to flank and bludgeon the opposition with the waiting game that initially brought him fame.
Hence, when he scored his maiden century against New Zealand in Hyderabad in 2012, it was no surprise to the fans and the media.
In addition, he also lived up to the Dravidian stereotype when he toured the England team with a double century (206) at Ahmedabad.
Dravid was nowhere to be seen, but who cared as long as India had Pujara in the middle.
As the years passed, he became more and more intense. Touring South Africa for the first time in 2013-14, the easy-going Gujarati came out on fire. After Kohli’s century, he scored 153 in a thrilling Test match in Johannesburg and grabbed all the headlines. However, his form would drop the next year.
Windy New Zealand proved too volatile for this serious cricketer. Scores of 23, 19, 17, 38 didn’t help his confidence. In such a situation, he boarded the plane to go to England.
As expected, disaster followed. And he soon became the scapegoat for a disastrous Test series where India were on top after two matches. He managed just one half-century-55 at Nottingham.
This period would be his first silent period in international cricket and probably the most difficult. His bat was coming at an angle and he was hitting the seam balls straight.
It was that simple and that over and over again. Nonetheless, the darkest hour helped him grow for his second coming. Pujara 2.0 was ready to roll!