India vs Australia 2017

India vs Australia: It’s time Virat Kohli and India gave Pujara the respect and love he deserves

Will the captain empower his best Test batsman beyond the lazy demands of critics and commentators?

Pujara’s work is never done. Not after he’s made a hundred, not after the hundred becomes a big hundred or a double hundred or a match-saving hundred or a match-winning hundred.

There will be those that will find faults with that hundred. Those on air, those off air, especially those on air. Pujara is far from being the chosen one of Indian cricket. If he’s anything, he’s the forgotten one of Indian cricket. He might well become the chosen one of world cricket before India acknowledges even half of what he’s done. Nothing he’s done, today or yesterday will ever be enough. He will have to do that extra something tomorrow.

Batting through the second day, starting from the day before, 328 balls, spell after spell of Pat Cummins, even as the more accomplished Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane decided it was ok to drop their guards against him.

Just the other day, it was debated whether it was ok to drop Rahane from the team – he wasn’t, and in Bangalore, in Pujara’s company, a match defining partnership was forged. Rahane’s 52 along with Pujara’s 92, was the first century stand of the series.

Pujara exults after reaching his double-century in Ranchi. Image credit: Sajjad Hussain/AFP
Pujara exults after reaching his double-century in Ranchi. Image credit: Sajjad Hussain/AFP

The Kohli vs Pujara debate

When Virat Kohli came out to bat, Pujara was on 44. That was four more runs than Kohli had scored in the entire series, in four innings. At stumps, Pujara on 130, Kohli 46 in five innings. Even if Kohli fails to score a half century in this series, with a tally of less than 100, his place in the team remains unquestionable.

It will be a disastrous series, a blot surely, but not one to raise more than a few passing doubts. Kohli will remain captain, and will still be considered India’s best batsmen. Or as they continue to remind us in the commentary box (more so at the start of the series than now), the world’s best batsman. By all accounts, Kohli is the world’s best limited overs’ batsman – whether he is the world’s best Test player is still questionable.It’s an open race, and will continue to be for years to come, we’re still in the early laps of a long Test marathon.

If by Kohli’s own admission, he suffered a “brain fade” letting one go, and played at others he should’ve let go, he is in likelihood going through a horror run. But this run will be interrupted and forgotten by Kohli’s almost expected magic in the Indian Premier League and the Champions Trophy. Those are formats Kohli can now play on auto-pilot.

In hindsight, this series, regardless of the result, will not hamper Kohli’s career or place in the side. Now for a moment, imagine if it was Pujara and not Kohli was going through this horror run – both have had similar Test averages for a while now, (recently Pujara’s has crossed 50 while Kohli’s has dipped below 50) – what would have happened?

Kohli and Pujara during the series against England. Image credit: IANS
Kohli and Pujara during the series against England. Image credit: IANS

The loneliness of the Test specialist

With so few runs, Pujara would not have played the fourth Test. He would not have had the luxury of switching formats and finding televised form in the IPL or the Champions Trophy. In all probability, he would have had to quietly find his way to county cricket. Not that runs there would have assured him of a spot in the playing XI.

Rohit Sharma would be fit again, and similar talk of strike rates would fill the air again. The captain would talk of aggression, articles filled with strike-rate tables would be churned out in the press. Old timers who parrot strike-rates like religious mantras in the box, would go into overdrive again.

It’s happened before. It could happen again. The last time Pujara made a comeback he opened the innings and was unbeaten when the last wicket fell. He batted 456 minutes, faced 289 balls, scored 145 runs.

More often than not however, you will hear skewed views of Rohit Sharma scoring Test runs before he was injured again. But that is the media. The core of this Indian team should know better than to be swayed by idle talk of strike-rates in a Test match – more so in a series where it’s taken five innings for an Indian to score a century.

And it’s done by the guy with the highest batting average in the team. A little respect could go a long way with Pujara. Knowing he doesn’t have to battle for his place every time he goes out to bat, could go even longer.

Both Rahane and Kohli play with that knowledge of a secure spot. Recently Kohli had unequivocally backed Rahane. Not too different from how Kohli backs Kohli.

It’s time Pujara gets some lovin’

Rahane Test average has slipped to 45.96. His strike-rate though is 52.74. As for Kohli, his average is 49.41, strike rate 55.80. Whereas Pujara’s average stands at 51.67, his strike rate is 48.80.

It’s worth mentioning that cricket commentator, Sanjay Manjrekar, who loves talking strike rates nowadays, had a strike rate of 38.67. Luckily for him though, he wasn’t in commentary then. Luckily for Kohli, he can choose to not hear him when he’s watching another Pujara pilgrimage in the middle.

There are five days to a Test. If someone has the appetite, why not feed him all five? It will matter even more, when the quicker ones go on a fast.

With his third double century, Pujara became the first Indian to bat for 500 deliveries in a Test match. Effectively batting Australia out of the game. It’s up to Kohli what he wants to make of Pujara. A player on notice. Or a player for the world to take notice of.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.