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Pujara, Kohli signal beginning of new era in Indian cricket

Last updated on: August 28, 2012 11:41 IST

Pujara, Kohli signal beginning of new era

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Haresh Pandya

Playing under the inevitable shadow of the now-retired Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli handled both the Kiwis and weight of expectations well in the first Test, says Haresh Pandya.

While Cheteshwar Pujara's maiden hundred (159) was the highlight of the opening Test against New Zealand in Hyderabad, another key feature was his long partnership with Virat Kohli (58) which stabilised the Indian innings. The two added 125 runs for the fourth wicket after India were 125 for three with Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar back in the pavilion.

The two could not have clicked, both individually and collectively, at a more ideal time. There was both a silent and a sound message in their solid stand. It was not just Pujara and Kohli out there in the midd#8804 it was the future of India that was unfolding. The two vastly talented and most confident youngsters with dreams in their eyes were battling and rescuing India even as fans were still mourning the loss of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.

In keeping with our tendency to sing panegyrics of the great players when they retire, we are inclined to ignore the young brigade, howsoever talented. So much was made of the absence of Dravid and Laxman on the eve of the first Test. It was as if they were simply irreplaceable, as if there were just no other batsmen in sight who could fill the two vacancies, as if the cupboard were empty!

When India lost those three crucial wickets, the spectres of Dravid and Laxman were looming large over the Indian middle-order. With Pujara returning to the side after more than a year, they threatened to continue to haunt Team India. It was under the inevitable shadow of Dravid and Laxman that Pujara and Kohli batted while handling the Kiwis as well as the weight of expectations. But by the draw of stumps on the first day itself the duo managed to push the spectres into the background and people were already talking about the dawn of a bright new generation in Indian cricket.


Image: Virat Kohli
Photographs: REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

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'Pujara showed his intent is same as Dravid's'

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No, Pujara and Kohli did not perform extraordinarily. Nor were they genuinely tested. This New Zealand team with its poor attack probably cannot test your skills and nerves. But match situation and psychological pressure certainly can and, anyway, the Kiwis are eternal fighters. The fact was Pujara had to prove his worth all over again and Kohli had to re-stamp his authority and maintain his good form. Another reality was that India had lost three key wickets and the pressure was building.

"Pujara stepped into Dravid's position once again as Indian cricket lovers watched with bated breath and showed that while the style is different, the intent is the same and that will have pleased all those who did not know what to expect," wrote Sunil Gavaskar in his column.

"Yes, this Kiwi attack is not the most testing in the world, but every batsman knows how tough it is to score a single run in international cricket."

The former India opener and captain could not have made a truer statement. Let us face it. Howsoever illustrious and established, you have to leave the stage one day and make room for younger people. Dravid and Laxman knew this very well and announced their retirements at the right time, unlike certain sportspersons, who seem to want to continue playing till eternity even if they may have started proving liabilities for their teams time and again.

Though different as chalk and cheese, both on and off the field, Pujara and Kohli have proved that they have it in them to be the pillars of the Indian middle-order, just like Dravid and Laxman were, and serve the country for years to come. They may never approach the famed duo in sheer class, if not greatness, but they are gifted enough to create their own special identities in world cricket.


Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

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Kohli is yet to taste something called consistent failure

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They are young (both were born in 1988 -- Pujara on January 25, Kohli on November 5), exuberant and full of ambitions. They may never have played together for Team India before the Hyderabad Test, which has signalled the beginning of a new era in Indian cricket, but Pujara and

Kohli have long promised to keep the flag of the Indian middle-order fluttering with their own contrasting approaches and styles.

While Pujara marked his Test debut with a match-winning 72 (off only 89 balls) in India's crucial chase against Australia at Bangalore in 2010 and further impressed with his technique and temperament against the fiery Dale Steyn and company on fast and bouncy pitches in South Africa despite not playing any major innings, Kohli grabbed the opportunity the injury to this compact Saurashtra batsman provided him and left his imprint with his consistently good performances in all the three formats of international cricket to be hailed as India's best batsman since the last Australian tour.

Kohli is yet to taste something called consistent failure. He is the fastest to score 1000 and then 3000 runs in One-Day Internationals. This young turk from Delhi has already essayed five three-figure innings this year and led many to compare him with Tendulkar. Why, Tendulkar himself feels that Kohli is a worthy challenger to his astonishing record of 100 international centuries, which is at once a tribute to this enormously gifted batsman.


Image: Virat Kohli
Photographs: Hamish Blair / Getty Images

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Pujara, Kolhi are destined to take Indian cricket further

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What is heartening is both Pujara and Kohli are favourably compared with Dravid and Tendulkar respectively at such a young age when they are still in the initial stage of their careers.

Potentially great players do keep appearing on the firmament to take the place of the champions when their days are numbered or when they fade into oblivion. When the artistic Gundappa Viswanath disappeared from the scene, Mohammed Azharuddin appeared. When the prolific Gavaskar retired, Tendulkar arrived. When Kapil Dev looked over the hill, Javagal Srinath emerged like a comet. One can go on and on and mentioning many players from other disciplines, too.

The triumvirate of Sourav Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman appeared almost at the same on the horizon when the Indian middle-order seemed to be in disarray. Ganguly has long called it day and now Dravid and Laxman have followed suit. But, as Pujara and Kohli have demonstrated, their retirement is not going to cause any concern. The two young men are destined to take Indian cricket further and bring many laurels to the country.


Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

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