By Khurram Habib
Ahmedabad, India’s No.3 batsman Cheteshwar Pujara has now played 38 Test innings without a century. His last century had come 17 Test matches ago, when he scored 193 against Australia in Sydney in January 2019. Since then he has scored nine half-centuries, but has not been able to convert them into three-figure knocks.
The closest Pujara, 33, came close to scoring a century since his 193 was when he scored 81 in the second innings of the Visakhapatnam Test against South Africa in October 2019.
And the last Test century Pujara scored in India was the 143 against Sri Lanka in November 2017 in Nagpur. Of his 18 centuries, Pujara has scored 10 centuries in India and eight abroad.
Pujara seems to be particularly struggling against left-arm spinners. England’s Jack Leach, for example, dismissed him for the fourth time out of six in the ongoing home four-match Test series, continuing right-handed batsman’s troubles against the left-armers.
While his performance in Australia over the last two series has taken him to greater heights, the fact remains that he hasn’t scored a hundred in India over the last three years. His highest has been 86 and he has averaged just under 35 over the last three-year period. He has averaged under 34 at the No.3 spot during the last three years in India.
India skipper Virat Kohli was asked by IANS on the eve of the fourth and final Test about the problems faced by Pujara.
Kohli responded almost irritably: “Up until three-four years ago, people were talking about that he is a flat track bully; doesn’t score abroad. Now that he has started to score abroad, people are saying he doesn’t score in India. He knows what he has to do; the batting coach knows what he has to do.”
Whatever work the batting coach Vikram Rathour or Pujara himself had done prior to the start of the ongoing fourth Test against England, didn’t seem to have been enough as the right-handed batsman was on Friday again dismissed by Leach for just 17 off 66 deliveries. He fell leg-before the wicket.
Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar says the bat needs to come ahead of the pad on tracks that assist spin bowlers.
In Pujara’s case on Friday, it was his pad that first met the ball and even a review couldn’t save him.
Anshuman Gaekwad, another former India batsman, had also pointed out the mistake Pujara was making. Gaekwad said he is playing half-cocked against left-arm spinners.
Facing up to the left-arm spin bowlers hasn’t been easy for Pujara for quite some time. He returned from the 2019 Australia with the Man-of-the-Series trophy after making over 500 runs.
But in the Ranji Trophy final, Vidarbha made his struggle with their left-arm spinner who got him in both innings.
Pujara likes to use his feet to cut down spin but the moment that option is cut out, he tends to struggle.
That is what Leach has exploited as he has got him four times. The India No.3 has scored just 61 against Leach in the series, averaging 15.5 against him.