We have seen hitters. We have seen defenders. We have seen the Wall. We have seen God. The Indian Team has seen everything except for a human punching bag. They had that column ticked when Pujara came in to bat on day five of Gabba Test. From being Rahul Dravid’s spiritual successor, Pujara went step ahead to become the human punching bag that kept coming back after taking every single blow.
Stronger and faster the punch, Pujara’s power to worn out bowlers became stronger. He entered into his zone of solitude right when he took the field. Nobody could break that. Ball after ball. Over after over. He got ready even before the bowlers could go back to start their run-up.
Australia began with fuller delivery to him. His response- Defence. After losing all their strength, there was a change in plan. They began to attack, not the stumps but Pujara. Of course, he knew what he had signed up for, kept defending, keep things under control and made sure to be in the zone. The zone had three to four thick cover that was fed well by his courage and fortitude. Nobody could even get a glance of what ran through his mind, nobody was able to break that zone. Except for that one time when he had to stop Hazlewood to make way for the butterfly that flew right before him. Well, it turned good for him as he was able to frustrate Hazlewood and he responded with delivery to Pujara’s helmet. This was the 7th or 8th blow he had that day.
That day, Pujara’s defence not only included his bat. That traditional arm guard met more deliveries that a few batters in this series. Repeated hits to the ribs and the rear of the helmet, he almost lost a finger too. Of course, Pujara was supposed to go down after all these.
Instead, he grew in confidence. He began to wear out the bowlers even more. Thin edges became thicker one, means he knew where he was pushing the ball. He made sure that it didn’t travel to slips or the keeper. While doing all these, his head and the bat was down in most of the occasion.
While Pujara was doing this, India’s newest opener of this series, Gill was showcasing elegance in the form of pushes and pulls. He was batting like free-flowing water from the mountain. It was everything you can call as an art. This artistic display wouldn’t have been possible without the good-old punching bag of the country.
Now, this isn’t the first time Pujara was playing this film on the stage in Australia for us. This is the man who batted for continuous hours to give India their famous win a couple of years ago. In fact, in this series, he has batted for 928 deliveries, of course, the most. He went on to absorb the strength of the bowlers and had managed to wear them out in a way that Australia got stuck between the dilly-dallies and shilly-shallies.
After hours of digging, digging and eating deliveries for the appetite, Pujara had to go. Pat got the last new ball of the day. The sun came down and was getting closer to Pat. Pujara, at the receiving end, was standing under the drizzles. The mesmerizing visual of the sun-rain was the perfect epitome to the rivalry of Puj and Pat, the central plot of the series. In the end, Pujara fell to a close-to world-class delivery from a world-class bowler, but he had done his job well, very well.
Over to you, Pant, he said. Pant then did the exact opposite of what Pujara was doing all these while. This main madman made a miracle look like a middling job.
In the end, as everyone ran to hug Pant after his madness, this Dravid’s spiritual successor stood a few inches away, probably because of the blows he had after putting his country before himself.