Ranji Trophy semis: Pujara threat for Karnataka

Last Updated 22 January 2019, 02:17 IST

At the moment, not many attacks would like to face Cheteshwar Pujara. His terrific show in the just-concluded Test series in Australia earned him plaudits from the legends of the game. “It was just beautiful batsmanship. I just felt real gold stuff,” said Sir Vivian Richards about the Indian batsman.

Pujara is in the form of his life. A player with humunguous mental strength, he showed voracious appetite for runs in Australia. With 521 runs from four Tests, he was India’s top run-getter.

The right-hander has begun on a positive note after his return to domestic cricket from the historic Australia tour. For Saurashtra, Pujara brings different things to the table. His mere presence can lift the confidence of the team while putting the rival attack on the defensive. The right-hander’s crucial unbeaten 67 in Saurashtra’s successful record run chase of 372 runs in the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy against Uttar Pradesh in Lucknow was a small testimony to his value to the team. Ahead of the chase, Pujara’s pep talk gave the Saurashtra players the belief that they can pull off the improbable.

The upbeat Saurashtra next face Karnataka in the battle for a place in the title round from January 24 at the Chinnswamy stadium. Karnataka, the eight-time champions, will know the threat Pujara poses them. The last time the two sides met in a Ranji knockout game, it was Pujara’s mammoth innings that knocked Karnataka out of the tournament. His 352-run knock in the second innings, which included 49 fours and one six, helped Saurashtra clinch the 2012-13 quarterfinal tie on the basis of innings lead.

Pujara’s assault left the Karnataka attack battered. K Gowtham, Karnataka’s go-to-man with the ball in the last couple of seasons, leaked 206 runs in that innings. The off-spinner was sidelined for the next three seasons before he scripted a terrific comeback. J Arun Kumar, who was Karnataka’s coach in that game, felt it won’t be easy for Pujara against Karnataka this time.

“Coming straight from Australia to a place like the KSCA, where the ball keeps low, Pujara will find it difficult,” Arun emphasised.

“You saw in one of the Tests in Australia, where the ball kept low and he got bowled. There is a huge chance of the ball keeping low at the KSCA. His stance was slightly upright in Australia because he had made an adjustment. He will have to make an adjustment here also, widening his stance or bending his knees a little more to get lower on the ball. I’m sure he’s experienced enough and he’ll do that (change),” analysed Arun.

Arun said it will be an exciting contest. “With a big guy like Pujara in the side, Saurashtra will be charged up. But Karnataka bowlers are doing really well. So it won’t be easy for him. But once he gets set, he can be dangerous. His strike rate in domestic cricket is very good. It will be a good battle,” he said.

(Published 21 January 2019, 18:53 IST)

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