When Pujara made it to the international side, within years, I started seeing the glimpse of the wall in him. Of course, he cannot be Dravid but can be the wall for the side. He certainly became one in a few matches and stood tall against some of the best bowlers in the side. He was not someone the team feared but got frustrated.
On the other hand, nobody made me fall in love with cricket again than Rohit Sharma. Right after Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, Rohit Sharma was the only player who made my days bright. The white ball cricketer in recent past is undeniably brilliant and a player the opponents can only dream of having in the side.
Two of the best players in the Indian international team wouldn’t have imagined their fate when they played together in the Under-19 setup. Pujara was opening the innings then, Rohit was batting at number three. Pujara loved to attack whereas, Rohit looked calm. Pujara, with his abilities, was one of the top players for the limited-overs game, Rohit wanted to be more of an all-rounder to the team, he even tried practising medium pace a few years back.
With years, both the players had a different calling. They had a sort of role reversals, and they had a different path to success. They rarely stopped to meet in between.
Their most recent meeting came recently during the second innings of the Test match against South Africa at Visakhapatnam.
Rohit was enjoying his reincarnation as the Test opener, and Pujara just came in after making a poor score in the first innings.
They meet. Two of the different forces of the game meet. India was batting to put on a huge lead, and they wanted runs from both sides. I knew Rohit can do it, and the excitement was all about how Pujara would deal with the things.
Pujara played his natural game initially. He wasn’t attacking but defending. While Rohit was looking to transferring the pressure back to the South African team, Pujara was standing tall like a wall and blocking the pressure that the South African team was trying to put on India.
At some point, Rohit wasn’t taking it right and shouted Puji bhaag BD. I wasn’t expecting that. No, not from Rohit. No, not towards someone like Pujara. That’s how the game goes.
The message from the dressing room was clear. To hit. Pujara came out with the plan B. He was stepping out.
He was showing the intention to hit the deliveries something we don’t often see him do in the red-ball cricket. He was taking the ball a bit early than he did in the previous session. He was attacking. Giving the ball an extra push to run to the boundary. A few overs later, Pujara was climbing up and was catching up.
Rohit, on the other hand, used his plan B too. He was pushing Pujara back to strike. He was sweeping. Paddle sweep. He complemented Pujara who was trying to showcase his ability to hit the ball hard.
Pujara normally isn’t that man. He is not your boundary getter. He doesn’t slap the ball but kisses them. He doesn’t attack but touches them. Pujara was all about that. On the fourth day of the game, we did see a different version.
When I think of Rohit Sharma, the first thing that comes to the mind is how he attacks the ball yet stays elegant while doing so. He doesn’t really care but enjoys himself. That is his way of showing affection to the ball.
That session, things were different. He was allowing Pujara to take his place. He was playing Pujara’s innings. He was rotating the strike, pushing Pujara to do what he was doing, pushing Pujara out of his comfort zone. It was against his comfort zone as well. Things worked out well, and there was a bit of chemistry, the romance.
Maybe because both the players know each other for a long time, the romance was similar to something you’d see in the old couples. There were cuss words, there was love, there were handshakes and hugs too.
Two different people. Two different paths to success. Two different fate. Things take turns when they meet. This is just the beginning of many more Puji Bhaags to come. With Rohit Sharma opening the innings and Pujara batting at number three, we are going to see the old friendship taking the front stage more often. As long as this love-hate relationship stays, India will be safe.