I was sitting in the D stand on the fourth day, watching the match when Pujara walked by. I normally don’t scream at players to grab their attention, I mean fuck. No. But when I saw Pujara, I felt like I had to tell him. I screamed “Pujara! Hard luck man!” He was mildly shocked I guess. He smiled at me and gave a thumbs-up. I told myself ‘hope this boy makes it in the second innings.’ I had doubts though. I was sure Pujara would walk in only if the top order collapsed. It didn’t and Dhoni & co made that brilliant move: sending Pujara one down.
Watching Pujara and the first innings hero M. Vijay play, I couldn’t help but think ‘Our cricket is in good hands.’ Agreed, their litmus test will happen when they tour abroad. That is THE true test, yes, but indulge me here: I have seen talent like Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj, Sreeshant screw it all up… squander beautiful opportunities and end up on the wrong side of the limelight. These two boys though, Murali and Pujara, seem like they are made of different, better material. Murali’s patience and Pujara’s courage and cool are their best weapons.
When Sehwag fell, I had a familiar, sick feeling in the pit of my tummy: are we going to crumble. Again? And, I left home to watch the fifth day from the T stand. By the time I reached the stadium, Pujara and Murali were cruising along. 73 for 1 was the score. I sighed in relief, for in the first innings Pujara was very unlucky. But not in the second. The Aussies tried attacking him, but Pujara was fluent and intrepid: he pulled Johnson and mauled Hauritz. Even Hilfenhaus, the pick of the Aussie pace men, couldn’t do much. Pujara is someone that knows that ducking is not the only way to play a short ball. And I am glad. If ever I had a complaint on Sachin, it is this: ducking too much. Ducking even at innocuous outside-the-off, mother-promise-I-won’t-rise-above-your-knee deliveries. All right he’s made ducking an art, but that’s not the *only* way. It’s time we changed that. Let’s play the short ball boys. Fuck the duck.