Rahul Dravid gone. No problem! Apparently, that’s what Chetashwar Pujara said on the first day of the first test match between India and New Zealand at Hyderabad which commenced yesterday. For a man who got a chance to play after being out of the side for almost two years, securing a ton on day one does speak volumes about him.
In many ways, this can be considered as Pujara’s second debut. His last accomplished performance was against Australia in 2008 in which a scored strokefull 73 which helped India win the match and in turn the series. Since then he was in contention for a place in the team provided there was space left for him. When the selectors finally knocked on his door, he suffered a serious knee injury and was forced to sit out for a long time.
Yesterday, Pujara seemed sure of himself and was determined to make it count. There were negligible rash shots and he pick pocketed the gaps perfectly. India did get off to a bright start thanks to Virender Sehwag for blistering 47 off 41 balls. The quick departure of both the openers saw them in a slight spot of bother. To the amusement of many, Sachin Tendulkar seemed to be struggling while Pujara was flourishing. The plan set by the Kiwis against Tendulkar was evident by the field set by Ross Taylor. Young fast bowler Boult beat Tendulkar a couple of times before knocking off his middle stump.
While Tendulkar was making the walk back, there was something strange which I noticed. For the first time in over 22 years, there was a roar among the crowd. Reason- Virat Kohli had just entered the ground. He has developed quite a reputation for himself after some mind blowing knocks. He is exceptional in the shorter formats of the game but test cricket is a different ball game altogether. The way I see it, he still has a long way to go before he can make a mark for himself in the test arena.
The young duo of Kohli-Pujara provided India with a much needed partnership. The celebrations of Pujara reaching his hundred were not extravagant as he quietly took off his helmet and acknowledged the applause from the crowd. Due credit must also be given to the Kiwi bowlers but the problem with them was that there were good only in patches. In five day cricket, you have got to be aggressive at all times. All the sessions may not belong to you but then you wil have to make the best of what you got!
As I am writing this article, India are at 326/5 with Pujara and Dhoni at the crease. On a flat wicket like this, a run feast lies ahead of us.