Why Cheteshwar Pujara is more important to the Indian Test side than Virat Kohli

While Kohli’s presence will be missed, the Indian side has another warrior in their midst in Cheteshwar Pujara, who will once again lead India’s charge with the bat against the kangaroos.

While Kohli’s presence will be missed, the Indian side has another warrior in their midst in Cheteshwar Pujara, who will once again lead India’s charge with the bat against the kangaroos.
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These two willow wielders have been the backbone of the Indian Test batting line up for the last decade. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara have given nightmares to opposition captains in the longest format of the game. But, both these batsmen are absolute polar opposites in the way they approach the game.

Kohli oozes flamboyance. He is a man who plays like the monarch, with grace and panache and makes everybody take notice. His cover drive is a feast to the eye, and he is a man whom you can watch all day long and never get tired.

On the other hand, Pujara is like a soldier. He might look ugly, but he will toil hard. He is almost impenetrable once he gets his eye in, and goes about in his own methodical way of building his fortress.

Also, when we have a look at the numbers that these two men have generated at first glance, we might choose Kohli as the better player and consider him as the most important asset of the Indian Test side with the willow. He averages 53.63 in Tests, as compared to Pujara, who averages 48.67. The Indian skipper has scored 27 hundreds in 145 innings (5.37 innings per hundred), as compared to Pujara, who has scored 18 hundreds from 128 innings (7.11 innings per hundred).

But then, when we take a dive into the numbers, we might understand why Pujara is more important to the Indian batting line up than the current Indian skipper.

What do the numbers tell us?

Let us analyze some numbers to get going. One important metric that should be looked at, is the ability of a batsman to help his side to a win against the opposition. If a win is out of the equation, then the ability of a batsman to help his side draw a Test match is of tantamount importance.

From the above table, we can clearly see that Pujara has a much greater contribution in a win or a draw for India as compared to Kohli. While Kohli has scored 76.01% of his runs in a win or a draw for India, Pujara has scored a whopping 84.42% of his runs in a win or a draw for his country.

Another place where Pujara is ahead of Kohli is the percentage of centuries that he has scored in a win or a draw. While Kohli has scored 20 out of his 27 hundreds in a win or a draw, which translates to a percentage of 74.07, as many as 88.88% of Pujara’s hundreds(16 out of 18) in the whites have resulted in a win or a draw for his country.

From the above two tables, it is clear that Pujara has had a greater impact in a win or a draw for India in Tests as compared to Kohli.

How do Kohli and Pujara fare away from home?

Another pivotal factor is the ability of a player to raise his game when his country is away from home shores. In the table below, let us take a look at the performances of these two behemoths away from home.

Pujara has a much higher and impactful contribution as far as runs in a win or a draw away from home is concerned. India’s No.3 has scored 70.11% of his away runs in a win or a draw for the Indian side. On the other hand, only 54.59% of Kohli’s runs have resulted in a win or a draw for his side.

Now, let us look at the three-figure scores of these two men in a win or a draw away from home.

When we look at the table, we find that Pujara is way ahead of Kohli. Kohli has scored a mere 50% of his away hundreds (7 out of 14) that resulted in a win or a draw. On the other hand, a colossal 87.50% of Pujara’s away hundreds have enabled India to win or draw a match away from home.

Pujara has totally outshone Kohli in terms of the impact created in Tests away from home.

The performances of Pujara and Kohli in India’s crown jewel in Test Cricket

In the 2018-19 season, the Indian cricket team accomplished a feat that will rank as the crown jewel in their Test history. For the first time ever, the Virat Kohli-led side defeated Australia in a Test series in the kangaroos’ own backyard. In such an important victory, let us have a look at the performances of India’s No.3 and No.4.

Pujara was the warrior who made the historic victory possible for India with the willow. The right-hander pummeled 521 runs in the four-match Test series and also scored 3 hundreds to help India script history. While Kohli had a decent series as well, his numbers pale in comparison to the numbers that Pujara generated.

The Indian skipper scored just 282 runs in the series, and scored only a solitary century. His average in the series was also 40.29, more than 34 points lesser than Pujara.

In the End

India has a grueling four-match Test series on the cards when they take on Australia Down Under from December 17th. The Indian skipper will not be available for the series, as he will leave back to India for personal reasons.

While Kohli’s presence will be missed, the Indian side has another warrior in their midst in Cheteshwar Pujara, who will once again lead India’s charge with the bat against the kangaroos.

After all, Pujara is an asset to the Indian side and a more important willow wielder of the Indian Test side than the man who will leave after the first Test.

Note: All the stats have been taken from Howstat cricket and Cricinfo and have been updated as on 14th December 2020