Weekly Sports Newsletter: Can selectors afford to be blind to Pujara County races?

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Unlike the din and glare of IPL, Cheteshwar Pujara these days is in Sussex dressed in white, entertaining worshipers across the English county, parked on grassy embankments on their lawn chairs with their pets for company.

In this idyllic setting, he scored a few double tons and two hundred in his first four games. By Day 3 of his fourth outing against Middlesex he had reached another century and remained unbeaten at 125* at the end of the day. Apart from his races, Pujara’s stint on the county circuit also made headlines because of his Pakistani teammate and rival. His 100-run partnership with Mohammad Rizwan against Durham last game and his six in Shaheen Afridi’s incisive first spell on Saturday became social media fodder.

Despite that daring upper-cut six and 83.89 strike rate, Pujara continued to stress his association with the timeless art of batting which continues to receive expulsion notices from cricket venues around the world. He remained the stubborn guardian of this refined skill, flying the lone flag, keeping his relevance and batting approach.

His last run increased his number of one hundred first-class doubles to 15, which allowed him to enter the Top 10 of a list that has Bradman at the top. The elite club has mostly gents from the black and white era with WG Grace two-seater from the Indian Test specialist.

Pujara’s consistency in reaching over 200 scores is only second to Bradman’s. His double hundreds, on average, appear after 25 first-class innings. Cricket’s undisputed GOAT, The Don, needed around 9 innings.

Among active cricketers, Pujara is head and shoulders above his contemporaries. On the 200 most first-class list, Virat is second with 7, with Rohit Sharma (5) and Kane Williamson (5) further down the order – all staring at the impossibility of dethroning the man of unquenchable thirst. of races.

However, the most legendary reshuffle of this two hundred list is Pujara’s jump on Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, Ranji in the world. It’s a charming story about the pioneer who modeled Indian batting and the last of its kind to retain those century-old batting principles.

Long before Bollywood woke up in Brighton – stars like Deepika Padukone, Akshay Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan, Jacqueline Fernandez danced in bustling Sussex with an eight-mile long beach, Palace Pier and painted wooden huts bright colors – Indian cricketing royalty was a big draw here. Ranji was followed by Tiger Pataudi, both larger than life cricketers putting India on the world cricket map.
Continuing the India-Sussex tradition, Pujara gets her name on English honor rolls and also triggers references to Ranji.

Their closeness on the list – Pujara 9th born in Rajkot, Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar 10th – reflects their geographical proximity. Born more than a century apart, the two, one of royalty and the other working class, grew up cricketing. For them, cricket did not turn out to be a forced compulsion, it turned out to be a lifelong pursuit.

Like all princes during the era of Raj, Ranji attended the school established for young members of the royal family – Rajkumar College, Rajkot. It was an institute that provided English and cricket lessons. British coaches were sent to teach the heirs of the princely states the nuance of the game, proper conduct on the pitch and dressing room decorum.

In India for a long time, the settlers used the game to replace the indigenous culture with the British way of life. Their bond with the locals would be smooth and profitable if they spoke a common language and similar sensibilities. Cricket was a tool of assimilation.

Ranji, at least on the pitch, turned out to be a rebel. Like the English, he did not offer a straight bat to the ball which was intended for him. As Neville Cardus wrote, as only he can: “The fair length ball was not met by the fair straight bat, but there was a flick of the wrist, and voila!” the right ball was charmed to the limit of the leg. And no one really saw or understood how it all happened.

Early in his life, Pujara also had a cricket bat in his hand, and it would be his lifelong beacon and walking stick. Unlike Ranji, the son of a railway employee, Pujara, was not privileged. He had his father, Arvind, as a coach, who had his own version of the MCC coaching manual. But like the British coaches who coached Ranji, Arvind also insisted his son play the game the way he should.
Although he was born in the same city where Ranji was educated, Pujara could not even dream of going to Raj Kumar College. It wasn’t something his father could afford. As palaces begin to transform into boutique hotels, Raj Kumar College is said to be the preferred educational institute for the region’s wealthy elite.

None of the schools in Pujara – Sadguru Bal Mandir, Lal Bahadur Shastri Primary School, Virani High School, Ramesh Bhai Chhaya Boys School – could come close to the greatness of Raj Kumar College. Only one had a rudimentary playground. The one where Pujara spent his last university years was right in the middle of a bustling market, not far from the fire department building and a smelly naala. It was a dark building with a small courtyard as the only open space.

What attracted the best talent in town was a crazy cricket manager. “Since most young players would be busy playing tournaments, they would have attendance issues. school,” says Sr. Pujara.

This base advantage was the reason the school without a cricket ground or training schedule won the state inter-school tournament. Legend has it that Pujara won most matches single-handedly.

With this basic support system, far from the scale of Raj Kumar College or the treasury of Nawanagar Palace, Pujara developed a game that took him to the heights of Ranji.

As if there was something in the air that had been hanging in the air since the days of the Raj, Pujara, like Ranji, would develop a streak to work the ball straight to the pads on the side of the leg. Over time, Ranji’s famous gaze would evolve. Basic wrist work remained the same, but batsmen could now maneuver the ball in a larger arc. Pujara could work the ball from middle to thin leg, with the degree of fit in his wrist deciding the angle the ball would take.

The cracking look would be in the quiver of most subcontinent batsmen, but Pujara had something more. He had also retained within him the ancient wisdom of cricket. He could play time, a trait that was fast disappearing and no longer taught at cricket camps. These days, during summer vacation, when coaching centers are unusually inundated with impressionable kids, it’s IPL that’s fresh in their minds. Playing time was so boring, leaving the ball was sacrilege, having more than one shot for a ball was a passport to franchise tryouts.

Despite his IPL misadventure, Pujara’s stick remained intact. His 15 double hundreds indicate an important aspect of his stick. He is not Sehwag. He can’t run to a 200 in no time. Pujara must pace his innings, wait for the lost ball, see through deadly spells and shatter the opposing team’s resolve.

He knows the art of survival, he can bide his time, be the predator with unfailing concentration on the only moment of weakness or fatigue of his prey. Only those who can treat lost catches, play-and-miss blips as minor accidents and move on can climb Mt 200, 15 times. And the life lessons learned at those walkathons that schedule a drummer to go on a running frenzy after being kicked from the national team.

For any disgraced 34-year-old like Pujara, the selectors’ assurance of keeping the door open may seem hollow, but they still dig deep to find the motivation to score again.

Most career first-class double hundreds

Number of centuries Player name Scope
37 DG Bradman 1928/29-1947/48
36 WR Hammond 1925-1946/47
22 Hendren 1919-1936
17 H Sutcliffe 1922-1939
17 Mr Ramprakash 1992-2010
16 Frying CB 1900-1912
16 J.B. Hobbs 1909-1933
16 G.A. Hick 1985-2004
15 CA Pujara 2008/09-2022
14 KS Ranjitsinhji 1897-1908
14 CG Greenidge 1974-1990/91
13 WG Grace 1866-1896
13 JT Tyldesley 1898-1919
13 CP mead 1911-1933
13 WH Ponsford 1922/23-1934
13 G. A. Gooch 1980-1996
13 BC Lara 1992/93-2006/07
13 KC Sangakkara 2001/02-2017
12 P Holmes 1920-1932
12 RB Simpson 1959/60-1967/68
12 Javed Miandad 1974/75-1988/89
12 J.L. Langer 1993/94-2007
12 Younis Khan 1998/99-2016
11 JW Hearne 1911-1929
11 A sandham 1921-1937
11 VM Merchant 1941/42-1946
11 L Huton 1937-1953/54
11 DS Lehmann 1989/90-2006
11 CJL Rogers 2005-2014
ten A Shrewsbury 1882-1892
ten J Hardstaff 1935/36-1951
ten RT Simpson 1946-1952
ten VS Hazare 1939/40-1957/58
ten GM Turner 1971/72-1982
ten Zaher Abbas 1970/71-1982/83
ten Boycott 1967-1983
ten SM Gavaskar 1970/71-1983/84
ten IVA Richards 1975-1993
ten MW Gating 1983-1998
ten BJ Hodge 2003-2008/09
ten RS Dravid 1992/93-2009/10
ten DPMD Jayawardene 1997/98-2013/14
9 R Abel 1895-1901
9 FE Woolley 1911/12-1935
9 GA Headley 1927/28-1946/47
9 LEG Ames 1928-1948
9 ED weeks 1949/50-1953/54
9 DCS Compton 1939-1954
9 WJ Edrich 1938-1956
9 PR Umrigar 1952-1959
9 DM Jones 1984/85-1996
9 MS Atapattu 1995/96-2004
9 MEK Hussey 2001-2005
9 ML Love 1997/98-2008/09
9 MW Goodwin 2001-2011
9 RT Bridging 1994/95-2012/13
9 W Jaffer 1996/97-2018/19
9 P. Dogra 2011/12-2019/20

So when the selectors sit down to weigh Pujara County runs, it would not be a decision about a seasoned cricketer in the final hour of his career. It would be a call for a tried-and-true batting approach that has survived since Ranji’s days. As the list of 200 run-getters shows, Pujara is the last of a breed. There would be no like-for-like replacement for him.

By turning the Pujara page, selectors will complete a chapter and close a cricket book forever. They must be careful and very safe.

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Sandeep Dwivedi

National Sports Editor

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