The Pujara method of scoring runs
Cheteshwar Pujara took 54 balls to score his first run in the first innings of the third Test against South Africa. People laughed at him and made trolls. In the end, he scored a gritty 50 off 179 balls. His fifty was all the more impressive as Kohli and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were the only Indian batsmen who reached double figures. The same people, who mocked him earlier started praising him after seeing other batsmen failing to survive.
The ‘Che’ walked in to bat when the scoreboard read 7-1 and India lost Vijay soon after. Kohli joined him in the middle. Bounce and seam movement made batting tough. Vernon Philander bowled seven maidens out of his eight overs in the first session. Lungi Ngidi also made things hard as he bowled seven maidens out of his 10 overs.
The India skipper was playing his shots while Pujara was content to hang in at one end. The duo added 84 runs for the third wicket before Kohli departed for a well-made 54.
Pujara saw Ajinkya Rahane failing to make an impact and perishing for 9. The India No.3 batsman added 31 runs with Parthiv Patel, who scored only 2. He finally was caught behind by Quinton de Kock off Phehlukwayo for a gritty 50.
The Saurashtra batsman was the glue, which held the batting unit together. He left many balls. He neither played expansive drives nor dominated the bowlers. He played each ball on its merit. He gave respect to good balls but put away bad balls. The concentration level was top notch. After his departure, India folded for 187 from 144-4.
The Pujara method
Every batsman scores runs using his own methods. Kohli plays his shots and dominates bowlers. On the other hand, Pujara is an accumulator. He likes to take his time and goes for shots only when he gets bad balls. Once he is in, he plays long innings.
He is often criticised for his low strike-rate and lack of intent. The intent is not always attacking brand of cricket, it can be other way around too. Pujara has his own definition of ‘intent’: “For me, intent is something where you defend well, you leave well, and you play on the merit of the ball.”
“Ultimately, what matters is that you score some runs for the team and put up a decent total,” he said at the end of the first day’s play.
Playing shots and scoring at a high strike-rate are not mandatory to become a successful player. For example, Rahul Dravid and Shivnarine Chanderpaul made more than 10000 runs by playing the anchor role. Dravid had a strike-rate of 42.51 whereas Chanderpaul had a strike-rate of 43.31.
We need players like Kohli who can play shots. We also need players like Pujara who can hang in at one end for long period of time. Making runs is more important than the way of making them. As long as Pujara makes runs, it doesn’t matter how quickly it comes.