As India has seemingly reached a position of strength on Day three of the third and final Test match against Lanka at Colombo (India was all out for 312 early during the day) the question that arises is whether Cheteshwar Pujara was dealt a raw deal?
As the rest of the Indian batsmen failed to get on top of the Sri Lankan bowlers on Day two, Pujara (145*) showed excellent technique and temperament to knock off timely runs on a wicket that surely was assisting the bowlers.
His 104-run partnership with Amit Mishra (59) for the eight wicket helped India cross the 300-run mark from a stage when they looked good to crumble for under 200.
In hindsight, was Pujara’s exclusion from the first two Tests justified?
Given his excellent English County stint at Yorkshire and Derbyshire, Pujara was already knocking at the Team India doorsteps only to be ignored by the selectors every now and then.
Of course KL Rahul never looked comfortable as an opener (save for his hundred in the second Test) and his technical shortcomings were brutally exposed on a wicket that offered pacers ample assistance.
In contrast, Pujara’s hundred was a master-class in how to go about scoring runs in unfriendly conditions and underlined his ability as a top-class opening batsman.
Now even if India goes on to win this match, due credit must be given to Pujara. For, his ton definitely saved his team from an embarrassing collapse.
Keeping aside his average run during the England and Australian sojourns in 2014, this century definitely gives strong signals to the Indian selectors and more so to the team management, who now may be regretting keeping him out for so long.
With little more than two days of the Test still remaining, it would be interesting to see whether Pujara’s heroics with the bat can inspire the rest of the team to clinch what will prove to be a historic series win in the Emerald Isle after 22 years.
Whether that happens or not, Pujara can duly take a bow!