Theres nothing new about Cheteshwar Pujara scoring double or triple centuries in domestic cricket. In fact,he has made a habit of playing marathon knocks at this level,a fact that held true at the Chepauk on Sunday. His 269 (461 balls,33×4) flattened Tamil Nadu on their home patch and secured three points for Saurashtra. It was his 25th first-class hundred nine have reached or gone past 200.
While declaring on 565 for eight,Tamil Nadu must have thought they had enough runs on a pitch with some grass cover.
Then,they put Saurashtra under pressure by removing their openers with only 12 runs on the board. It became 66 for three after 23.3 overs.
However,they hit a roadblock in the man who bats at number three for India and Saurashtra.
The man who watched Pujaras marathon from a box-seat was Saurashtra captain Jaydev Shah. Shah himself played a magnificent hand and missed his double-hundred by only five runs. Together they put on 353 runs for the fourth wicket after which,Aarpit Vasavada (70) paired up with Pujara and added 157 runs for the fifth wicket. That saw the visitors were home and dry.
We had a very good partnership. The first phase of our partnership was very critical. The ball was doing a bit and we had to ensure we didnt get out, Shah told The Indian Express from Chennai. Later the pitch became good to bat. Overall,we paced our innings very well.
How did the captain see Pujara ahead of the South African tour? Pujara knows his game very well and,as usual,played sensibly. The best part of his innings,or rather his game,is his shot selection. This is the main reason why he consistently scores big, Shah observed.
South Africa,however,would be a different ball game altogether.
The pitches there would be quicker and bouncier,and it would be a big shift from facing (deliveries at) 130-135kmph at home to 150kmph in conditions where the ball will move all day. For one year or so India have been playing all their cricket at home and the preparation time is very limited for the South Africa series, Shah said.
This will only be Pujaras second overseas Test assignment but he has the game to succeed in all conditions. Much will depend on how well he utilises this preparation time and gets ready for a very tough challenge, Shah said.
Saurashtra coach Debu Mitra was impressed with the way Pujara helped maintain positivity in the dressing room,even after the team had lost three early wickets.
He (Pujara) came to the dressing room and said there was nothing in the pitch and we could surpass Tamil Nadus total. In fact,he kept on saying this throughout his innings. We lost close to an hour due to bad light and rain on the final day,otherwise he would have scored a triple-century, said Mitra.
But how does he maintain his indefatigable appetite for scoring big runs?
Concentration and determination, replied the coach. He keeps his cool. The idea of failure never crosses his mind.
Mitra believes this innings will serve as a good preparation for Pujara ahead of the South African tour.
Yes,the pitches there will have more bounce and the conditions will be different. But this Chepauk surface too had good bounce. So this was a very good batting practice for him.
Brief Scores: Tamil Nadu 565/8 decl. drew with Saurashtra 581/6 in 161.4 overs (C Pujara 269,J Shah 195; Baba Aparajith 2/71,R Prasanna 1/26)
Points: Saurashtra 3,Tamil Nadu 1