Saturday was a throwback to old-fashioned Test cricket as Cheteshwar Pujara crafted a sublime and unbeaten 130 against Australia in the Ranchi Test. In exactly a week, since the time Virat Kohli’s side lost the Pune Test by 333 runs, there has been lot of positive talk.
First, coach Anil Kumble said one needed to talk beyond the 22 yards that is a cricket pitch and then Kohli said there was no point talking about negative stuff. After the twists and turns, highs and lows seen in the first two Tests in Pune and Bengaluru, Ranchi has beautifully brought out the nuances of the longer format of cricket.
For those who have been fed on an overdose of instant cricket — ODIs and T20s — the Ranchi Test has been fascinating. If Steve Smith exhibited patience as the Australian skipper, two men from Team India have made their presence felt in ample measure.
Yes, since the time Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja were dropped during the West Indies tour, they have come back with vigour and purpose. The star from the batting point of view has indeed been Pujara. At a time when Virat Kohli is battling indifferent form and a shoulder injury sustained while fielding, it was imperative someone like Pujara showed his presence once again.
|At a time when Virat Kohli is battling indifferent form and a shoulder injury, it was imperative someone like Pujara showed his presence once again.|
Watching the batsman display monk-like patience, play with serenity and build his innings was invaluable. India are still 91 runs behind Australia, but the way Pujara batted was sheer artistry. Old timers get nostalgic when they see a batsman play dull and dour cricket.
Yet, given the situation, Pujara did not bat so dourly to bore the spectators. He was ready to execute the patent drive with comfort on either side of the wicket and at the same time not get tempted by the spinners when lured.
For someone who was out in the wilderness from the third Test during the West Indies tour, Pujara has worked hard on his return. Being away from the Team India dressing room hurts and the way he has come back is proof that he is not upset at not being picked by any franchise during the IPL auction.
After his return, Pujara has scored 1187 runs in 13 Tests. Most notably, in this series against Australia, he has scored when there was a big demand for runs.
If Pujara has shown that Test cricket is about great spirit and batting in old-fashioned style where it’s not essential to always score at a fast clip, Jadeja has found his spin magic again. At a time when the world raves about R Ashwin as an off spinner, Jadeja has remained in the backdrop.
This has happened before as well in Indian cricket when the attention was grabbed by just one bowler. But then, Jadeja has been patient and has proved to himself and the team his utility. His five-wicket haul in Ranchi came on a wicket which has been a good one. It’s not like the pitches in the first two matches, which resembled a snake pit.
For the record, since the time Jadeja returned, he has picked 63 wickets in 12 Test. And this has almost gone unnoticed.
From the team’s point of view, these contributions from Pujara and Jadeja have been appreciated by skipper Kohli. Personally, Kohli is going through a bad phase where he has been unable to score. But as a skipper he is happy that there are other people in the team who are delivering.
Talk of performances and taking on challenges, the same cannot be said about Shashank Manohar, the International Cricket Council chairman, who resigned last week. Manohar quit just a day after meeting members from the COA (committee of administrators), looking after the affairs of the Indian cricket board (BCCI), in Mumbai last week.
And it showed Manohar remains unpredictable. He termed his decision to quit as “personal”. However, looking at his past track record, one has never been able to read Manohar’s mind. At a time when the BCCI is unhappy with the revenue sharing model prescribed by the ICC, the BCCI administrators (COA) expressed their displeasure.
While jettisoned officials from the BCCI who have nothing to do with cricket administration now try and portray the COA as people who have no idea of how to run Indian cricket, reality is different. The COA has shown purpose and intent in ample measure and Rahul Johri, the CEO of the BCCI has been doing quiet work in the background.
Even as Manohar slipped quietly into Nagpur, the BCCI has shown that when professionals handle work, they do a good job. Perhaps, as good as Pujara and Jadeja.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)