indian cricket

Like father, like son: An ode to the man who made Cheteshwar Pujara the ‘silent warrior’

As the India batsman approaches a landmark 50th Test, he has his father Arvind to thank for moulding him into a gritty, tough giant.

Cheteshwar Pujara is a “silent warrior”, said Sachin Tendulkar. He piles up mountains of runs, grinds down bowlers, all with impassive, Zen-like concentration. What differentiates him from some of the other batsmen in the Indian line-up is the way he goes about making big runs. Methodical, steely, expressionless. Not for him are the big, over-the-top celebrations. At best, he will allow himself a raise of the bat and a slight smile. And then the monk returns again.

Where does this impassiveness arrive from? Where else, but from the person who made him the cricketer he is, his father Arvind Pujara.

The 29-year-old from Rajkot had his greatest series against Australia where he broke one record after another. His monumental epic in Ranchi, where he played 525 balls for his 202 and played India’s longest Test innings, deflated Australia. But when he got back home to the team hotel, he received one simple message from his father:

“Well played”.

A father’s dream

These two simple words epitomised not just the relationship shared by father and son but also provided an understanding into Pujara the player and how he has been moulded. Right since he was a child, his father has moulded him into his gritty, tough giant who doesn’t fall prey to emotional outbursts but only focuses on the job in hand.

As he approaches a landmark 50th Test, the Saurashtra batsman reflected on how his father had mellowed over the years: “At times, he has been very critical but now we have come to an understanding, where we always speak and we come to a conclusion. And he is not very strict anymore.”

But Arvind Pujara, a former first-class player, was not just methodical, he was obsessed with making sure his son would become a Test cricketer and left no stones unturned to make that happen. When his son was only five, he took him down to Karsan Ghavri to understand if his son had the talent and when he got the confidence, thus started a long and tiring journey.

“I trained him on cement wickets,” he had said, per a Times of India report, in April. “Back then, a few people felt that it wasn’t right. However, I was convinced that batting on cement wickets has helped him develop concentration. On turf wickets, which aren’t well maintained, you can and have to avoid some of the deliveries which can jump awkwardly. But on cement tracks, you’ve got to play at all the balls thrown at you. It helped Chintu play straight, and go near the ball while batting, which is sometimes not possible on turf wickets”.

Creating a great

Arvind and Cheteshwar’s journey took years of struggle. As junior Pujara has mentioned, his father was a strict coach, never afraid to scold him when required. There were long hours in the nets, trips to Mumbai. But the two also fought off personal tragedy – Cheteshwar lost his mother to cancer just few days before an Under-19 match.

“[My father] had to play the role of my mother as well,” Pujara had said in 2015. “We were the only two members in the family. He used to work in the railways at the time. He would get up early, do the necessary work in the kitchen, including preparing tea and breakfast, and ensure that I did not get late for school. He would also attend to his office work and take care of his wards, including me, at his coaching camp in the morning and evening.”

Even at an emotional moment when Cheteshwar scored a century in Rajkot against England in 2016 in front of his adoring family, his father hardly showed signs of emotion. “I am happier because it was a match-saving innings by my son and Murali Vijay,” he had said. And then, back to his usual meticulous coaching self, “In a Test match, one has to plan according to the situation and that is just what they did.”

In a sense, the 29-year-old’s upcoming 50th Test in Colombo will not just be an individual mark, it will be a moment of belief, of pride for the entire Pujara family. It is a landmark of not just his batting determination but also a validation of the hours and hours of training and coaching his father had conducted. Today, Cheteshwar Pujara is the Mr Dependable. But like all greats, his genesis lies within a man who detected and tirelessly moulded a talent where no one else did.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.


During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.