Cheteshwar Pujara has been the flavour of the season. But with the cricketers and aficionados switching focus on to a rigorous season of white-ball cricket, not many would have placed bets on Pujara to continue to steal the limelight in coloured clothing.
But Pujara continued to prove everyone wrong, smashing an unbeaten 61-ball 100 (61b, 14x4, 1x6) during the Group C opener of the Syed Mushaq Ali Trophy at the Holkar Stadium on Thursday.
Despite becoming the first Saurashtra batsman to score a T20 hundred, Pujara along with his team-mates ended up on the losing side, with Railways executing the stiff chase of 189 to perfection.
Still, with the manner in which all of Pujara’s contemporaries and seniors, including veterans Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh who took the field in the latter game of the double-header at Holkar Stadium, complemented his efforts gave a hint that Pujara has finally started to break the tag of a red-ball specialist.
“Such innings will change that perception. I have always been saying that I can play well in white-ball and I have been working hard,” Pujara said after the game. “When I can play such an innings, I think things will change, people will realise I can play shorter formats also. It’s just a matter of time, I think.”
He may been given a reprieve on 7 by Ashish Yadav off pacer Amit Mishra in the fourth over after opening the innings along with young Harvik Desai, but it was pleasing to see the manner in which Pujara rotated the strike.
As a result, besides the 62 runs that came off boundaries, including a straight six off Railways pace spearhead Anureet Singh, the feature of Pujara’s batting was his ability to rotate strike.
It reflected in the fact that Pujara’s knock consisted 30 singles and four twos, with only 12 dot balls.
Pujara admitted that besides carrying the confidence of Test cricket into Thursday’s game, he has also been backing himself as a shorter-format batsman.
“I have been working on my white-ball cricket. See, basically I’ve been batting well this season, so I just wanted to carry on and capitalise,” he said.
That majority of his runs came in conventional fashion was a testimony to a school of thought that feels one doesn’t necessarily need to be a power-hitter to be a successful T20 batsman.
“You have to stick to your strengths. Someone like Kane Williamson, he has been really successful in IPL, the way he plays is he plays cricketing shots,” he said.
“I am such a player who would like to play in that way. At the same time, I am adding a few more shots so that I can score runs more quickly and today was a prime example of that.”