By Pradyut Hande:
When Rahul Dravid announced his retirement from international cricket, the Indian cricketing fraternity (nay, the entire country) rose in unison to celebrate the career of one of the greatest ever batsmen to have played the game. Although on the cards for a while, his departure after a below par tour to Australia, has certainly left a yawning void in the Test batting lineup. After serving the nation selflessly with distinction for 16 long years, Dravid leaves behind a staggering legacy in his wake, having amassed over 10,000 runs in both forms of the game. Moreover, he has vacated the crucial Number 3 position in the batting lineup. In the days following his announcement, every cricket aficionado had but one question. “Who will replace ‘The Wall’?” I believe Rahul Dravid is irreplaceable. Granted the fact that another player will slot into his position; but nobody will ever be able to replace the legend. His unparalleled contribution to Indian cricket is a sheer testament to the man and his abilities.
However, saying that, one cannot afford to live in the past and thus, must plan towards the future. Amongst the handful of names that did the rounds, the highly rated youngster from Saurashtra, Cheteshwar Pujara emerged as the frontrunner for the prestigious Number 3 slot. Having made a blistering debut against Australia in 2010, waning form and unfortunate injuries had blighted the young man’s career; forcing him to bide his time on the sidelines. However, a strong showing on the domestic front coupled with retirement of senior batsmen ensured that he was picked in the squad for the 2 Test Match Series against New Zealand. After waiting on the fringes for a while, Pujara was handed a new lease of life and it was up to him to make it count.
…And make it count he has thus far! His sterling knock of 159 in the first innings of the first Test against the Kiwis in New Zealand was a treat to watch and one hopes, is a harbinger of bigger and better things to come. Pujara possesses the technique, composure, temperament and hunger to succeed at the international level. At only 24, he has age on his side to further improve upon his weaknesses and transform into a reliable Number 3 bat. His unstinting workman like approach, unwavering focus and ability to construct and pace an innings ought to hold him in good stead moving forward. He also displayed the refreshing quality of adaptability, being able to switch “gears” almost at will during his innings. As a Test Match batsman, it is critical to capitalize on one’s starts and convert them into big scores. Having been accustomed to scoring big, right from his junior levels, Pujara definitely has the nous to get big scores once he gets set. In a nutshell, he certainly possesses all the requisite attributes of a good Test batsman.
Indubitably, it is too early to draw comparisons between Dravid and Pujara; as that would fail to serve any purpose. Pujara may not be able to replace Dravid, but he sure can strive to emulate the character, courage and consistency of the stylish Bangalorean. Suffice to say, he has “gotten off the mark” in style and has perhaps laid the foundation for a long innings in international cricket. It is now up to him to build on this initial success and carve a niche all of his own; till one fine day the average cricket fanatic wonders aloud…”Who will replace Pujara?”
About the author: The Writer is a Business student with a degree from NMIMS, Mumbai. He is presently working as a Senior Executive with a leading Public Relations firm in Mumbai. Through his writing; he attempts to address myriad issues of both domestic and global consequence, ranging from Business and Economics to Geopolitics…from Sports to Arts and Culture. He has over 200 publications to his credit in some of the leading national dailies and weekly magazines across the country. He is also a keen debater, munner, quizzer, painter and amateur freestyle rapper. His other interests include Sports, Music, Reading, Travelling and Social Entrepreneurship. For his latest postings,Â follow his blogÂ . To read his other posts,Â click here.