Pujara comes out of shell when he is under pressure: Ex-Pak captain
- Pujara scored 53 off 86 deliveries in India’s second innings
- He also shared a 111-run partnership with Ajinkya Rahane
- Banking on their partnership India set a 240-run tricky target to win the Johannesburg Test
Chteshwar Pujara scored 53 on Wednesday when India were in dire need of a partnership in their second innings of the second Test against South Africa at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. Pujara, who has been struggling to find his mojo back for quite some time now, took 86 deliveries to score 56 while sharing a very important 111-run partnership with Ajinkya Rahane, who scored 58 off 78 balls. Banking on their partnership, India set a 240-run target for South Africa on a tricky Wanderers wicket.
Both Pujara and Rahane have been under pressure since runs were not coming from their willows for a while. Pujara, in fact, has not scored a hundred since 2019. He last scored a hundred – 193 – against Australia in Sydney. Since then he scored 12 fifties, and he has been accused of being too slow and nonresponsive even on sporting wickets.
During India’s tour of England in 2021, Pujara had a golden chance of scoring a hundred when he was dismissed for 91 off 189 balls off Ollie Robinson at the Oval. During India’s tour of Australia in 2020-21, Pujara was even hailed for his unbreakable defence under pressure situation. But as things stand now and run started coming from other batters, Pujara was under the scanner of cricket pundits.
Pujara, Rahane rescued India in the second innings
On Wednesday, he, uncharacteristically, came out of the shell to rescue India from early hiccups. At one point, India were struggling for 44 for 2. It was majorly due to his innings and Rahane’s fifty India got an upper hand in the Test. Pujara, who had been going through a rough patch for quite some time in Test cricket, produced an impressive outing in the closing hours of Day 2 as he scored at a brisk pace in the second innings. After Pujara scored 35 off 42 on Day 2, former Pakistan captain Salman Butt noticed a pattern in India no.3's batting.
“I noticed this one thing (about Pujara). He was under pressure in the England tour as well and he played a very positive innings, similar to the one he played today. Whenever he is under pressure, he plays positive and plays his shot. I don't understand why he goes back into his blocking mode then. He needs to think about his approach,” Butt said.
The former Pakistan captain said that Pujara plays “freely” when there is significant pressure on him to perform.
“Whenever he is under pressure, he starts playing freely. When there are fears that he might be dropped from the XI, he starts playing his shots. He gets the crucial runs with a good tempo. You saw that in England as well, when he failed in 4-5 innings, he played an 80-90 run knock (91 in second innings in Leeds Test) at a decent strike rate,” Butt said on his official YouTube channel.
“Even today, when he was pushed against the wall, when there was uncertainty if he will play the next match or not, he scored at a very good strike rate. The moment the ball comes in his zone, he plays his shots.”
Butt's advice for Pujara
Butt also suggested Pujara not to go “back into his shell” and continue with the same approach, insisting that there is no need to tweak with the strategy that is reaping rewards.
“So, I don't know why he goes into a shell once he gets the runs. When you have the runs, keep that tempo, keep playing those shots! Maybe sometime, he will find out very soon that he has to play like this, he doesn't need to go back into his shell. He's looking good, he is presenting the full face of the bat because he is playing according to the pitch condition. If you play defensively on this pitch, you can get out at any time. Go for the runs,” said Butt.