Cheteshwar Pujara is on the verge of becoming India’s long term replacement for Rahul Dravid. If the recent series against England is anything to go by, the 25 year old is destined for greatness in a country where cricket players are revered liked the Gods.
Like many players in the current Indian squad, Pujara grafted his way into the side on the back of dominant displays in junior cricket. His form in under-19 tournaments immediately grabbed the attention of Indian selectors. Pujara was the tournament’s leading run scorer at the World Cup in 2006, scoring 349 runs at an average of 116. His immaculate form guided India to the final, but a rare failure saw India humbled against their arch-rivals Pakistan on the grandest stage of all.
Pujara might only be 25, but he already has a mountain of cricket under his belt. 75 matches for Saurashtra have seen him accumulate over 6000 runs at an average of just under 60. There is little doubt that he is going to be something special.
His Test debut in 2010 saw him establish himself as a cool customer under pressure. After failing in the first innings, Pujara produced a steely knock of 72 off just 89 balls to guide India to their fourth innings target of 207. Unfortunately, with a stellar career beckoning, Pujara was forced to miss the 2011 season with a knee injury.
His return to the side couldn’t have been any better, as Pujara confirmed his status as the future of Indian cricket with a perfect 2012. Displaying his technical prowess, Pujara celebrated his return to the Test side with a sparkling 159 against New Zealand at Hyderabad.
In the very next series, Pujara produced the sort of cricket that people have come to expect from Sachin Tendulkar. While the rest of his team struggled against England, Pujara stood up to defy the impressive attack. Scores of 206* and 41* in the First Test frustrated the English players, and wowed his home fans at the same time. Pujara then backed it up with 135 in the Second Test at Mumbai to leave his series average at 382 after three innings.
To warm up for the impending Test series with Australia, Pujara hit 203* against M. Pradesh, and then a career best 352 against Karnataka. Who needs Dravid?