Turning track, patch of rough and Nathan Lyon – How Cheteshwar Pujara jumped out to counter the threat

Turning track, patch of rough and Nathan Lyon – How Cheteshwar Pujara jumped out to counter the threat

I might not hurt you, but I will grind you.

Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Virat Kohli is on strike, there is a short leg in position, a leg slip which kept hovering around. Nathan Lyon jumps in, lands the ball on the bald rough patch outside the off stump, it pitches and snakes back in, that jump and bite off the surface. Kohli stretches forward, tries to get close to the pitch of the ball, pat and bad close together, all seems to be covered? Not quite, remember it is Adelaide, that bounce surfaces, ball jumps up, kisses the inside edge of the bat and lobs to Aaron Finch at short leg. Kohli walks back, Pujara looks at it from the non-striker’s end, pursed lips and then turns back.

India’s best batsman trudges back, but India’s grinding machine is showing the way to deal with the threat. Pujara, who arrested India’s slide in the first innings, wafted his bat away from the line of the ball when the seamers were bowling, ran towards the pitch of the ball and then kicked it away when Nathan Lyon was into the attack.

‘You come to me, close to my strengths and I will then milk you. I might not hurt you, but I will grind you, you will be hurt and also tired’

These words were not uttered, but Pujara could well have screamed it out to Nathan Lyon. In the second innings, Lyon wheeled away for 42 overs, picked up 6 wickets, but then he was unable to breach the defence of a certain Pujara and his own devised strategy to deal with his threat.

Pujara smothers the spin

The right-hander decided to leave his crease in order to muddle the lengths of Lyon, the off-spinner was forced to adjust his length and then Pujara just stuck out his pad and kicked it away. He does not sweep so he could well have been pinned to the crease, but in his own bubble and recognising his own limitations he formulated this method of jumping out of his bunker, trying to get outside the line of the stumps and then either defending or pretending to defend.

Now, he negated LBW on two counts – if the umpire thought he played a stroke, he was well outside the line of the stumps, if the umpire decided he did not play the stroke, the bounce and turn on offer would make the ball miss the stumps. Ask a befuddled Nigel Llong who was stunned to see one of his decisions overturned.

On the true and sometimes dustbowls in Rajkot and to an extent in entire India, it becomes impossible to rack up runs if one has limited options against spin. Pujara, who has peeled off runs for absolute fun in the domestic circuit, knows how to deal and counter the threat. He is twinkle-toed, quick to jump out to meet the ball, or quick to go back and use the depth of the crease. More often than not, it is not an attempt to belt the bowlers into oblivion but to nudge and nurdle the ball away for a single and mess the planning of the opposition skipper.

The subtle adjustments

During the commentary, it was mentioned that he padded up 14 times to Lyon, and in all the process inside edged him only 7 times. So, he knew and trusted the bounce of the pitch and adjusted accordingly. Also, after the match, coach Ravi Shastri revealed that they had discussed that he needs to play the ball with a more upright stance to counter the extra bounce which he did so perfectly.

Lyon, who was relentless in the match with his unnerving accuracy against the other batsmen, was forced to alter his modus operandi. He had to shorten his lengths and this then enabled Pujara to go back and work him around off the backfoot which is much easier on a turning track with the patch of rough mocking you every time you take guard.

Pujara walked away with the Man of the Match award, he faced the most number of balls in a Test match in overseas conditions and looked as fresh as a daisy. Lyon has a huge heart, yes, his plans were kicked away in all senses by the right-hander but we cannot wait for Perth to commence!

~Written by Crictrajic

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