It just takes one moment to change public opinion. Earlier this month, Cheteshwar Pujara was the toast of the nation for his stupendous effort in India’s historic triumph Down Under. But on Monday, the right-hander was targeted for refusing to walk by a large section of cricket lovers across the country.
The Saurashtra right-hander, in the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Karnataka, received a 'life' in each innings. Despite having nicked the ball to the wicketkeeper, on field umpire refused to entertain the appeals. What irked people was Pujara’s decision stay put at the crease.
On Sunday at the Chinnaswamy stadium, a venue where Pujara made his international debut, the home crowd booed the right-hander on more than one occasion and the chants of ‘cheater’ got louder after he frustrated Karnataka with a century. The 31-year-old faced flak on different platforms of social media.
That a batsman should walk after nicking the ball is debatable. While he is applauded for his sportsman spirit if he decides to, a batsman is also worried about his team’s needs. In an important game like the semifinal, Saurashtra depended heavily on Pujara and their think tank wouldn’t have been impressed had Pujara walked back despite umpire ruling him not out. Also, not many teams call back a batsman who has been wrongly judged out.
The episode also triggered discussions on the quality of umpiring in domestic cricket. The Karnataka-Saurashtra game has witnessed at least three howlers and several dubious decisions. The idea of introducing DRS system in at least the knockout stage of the premier domestic tournament of the country received more mileage.
Pujara will walk back again on Monday to finish off the job for his side. The India Test batsman is known for his great focus despite the clutter around him. “He (Pujara) doesn’t give much attention to the crowd’s reaction. And they are the home fans so it was natural for them to react that way,” said Saurashtra left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja.
In a heart-warming sight, R Vinay Kumar, who was the unlucky bowler in the second innings, congratulated Pujara for his gutsy knock. While peace prevailed among the players, fans were divided over the episode.