For a team to look formidable in the shorter format cricket, it is important to have solid openers who can give a flying start. In Test matches, the team must have a dependable and consistent No 3 batsman. Cheteshwar Pujara played that role brilliantly in the Adelaide Test match.
Pujara is not a star sought after by Indian Premier League team franchises, but he is a star for the purists of the game. Test cricket would have been dull but for batsmen like Pujara. If all players played Test cricket like they approach the shorter format, there would be no difference between Test and One Day Internationals or the T20 format.
Test cricket needs a player who can grind. Pujara is not flamboyant, and he is not meant to be so too. A Test team needs batsmen who can stay at the wicket and get runs, especially if wickets fall quickly. Little wonder that he is often compared to Rahul Dravid who could do the same and was responsible for India doing well in Test matches. It is also ironic that Pujara too reached his 5000-Test run mark like Dravid in exactly 108 innings
To lift a team out of trouble and place them on the path to victory requires a batsman with tenacity and patience, and someone who has control over his emotions. With more shorter formats of the game being played these days, players unknowingly attempt adventurous shots in an attempt to get their team out of trouble. They forget that Test cricket is not to be played like T20 or the ODIs.
Bowlers are often at the receiving end in the shorter formats of the game. And when batsmen play Test cricket with the same mindset that bowlers are meant to be thrashed, they often fail to perform well. Even if a batsman has a wide repertoire of strokes, he needs to be aware and in control as to when and in what situation should he be unleashing them.
Pujara is well aware that dominating a bowler in Test cricket is not through hitting boundaries or sixes but through a solid defence backed by an ability to find the gaps. All top Test batsmen have this innate quality of getting a bowler to lose his patience and in the process his line and length. If not for Pujara, India would have found it impossible to lift themselves from 41 for four to a respectable total in the first innings at Adelaide.
India were blessed with players like Dravid and VVS Laxman who were vital for Test cricket. Pujara too possesses their qualities, and most importantly, he knows that lifting a ball and hitting it out of the boundary is not often the need of the hour but to lift India to a formidable total.