BANGALORE: Contemplate for a moment Cheteshwar Pujara as he walked out to bat amongst dragonflies here at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday morning.India, chasing 207 on a fifth-day wicket in the second Test against Australia, had lost Virender Sehwag — caught smartly by wicketkeeper Tim Paine off a Ben Hilfenhaus lifter that had left the right-hander — with no more than 17 runs on the board.
Pujara’s maiden innings had lasted three balls, terminated by a molly-grubber — the sort of dismissal that stays in the system, a splintered, worrisome bullet resistant to extraction. And not only had the 22-year-old replaced V.V.S. Laxman in the eleven, he had now replaced Rahul Dravid at one-drop.
How intensely will Pujara have felt the pressures of the situation? Will he have known the snide lines that had already begun to circulate — that he was the ‘lunch-watchman’, a sacrificial wicket before the break? Will he have wondered if the thousands of runs he had scored at the first-class level were any indication of his worth as a batsman.
These questions weren’t so much answered as transcended in two hours and nine minutes of top-class batsmanship. All that remained after Pujara’s 72 was for Sachin Tendulkar (53 n.o.) and Rahul Dravid (21 n.o.) to apply the finishing touches on India’s seven-wicket win.