Thirty thousand voices bellowing one name, that of the man at the other end. Cheteshwar Pujara had had to deal with this ever since he had begun his innings on Day One, when neither he nor Sachin Tendulkar had faced a ball yet. When in flow, Pujara can make it look like he’s playing a different match or batting on a different wicket. At the Wankhede, it looked like Pujara was performing in an alternate universe.
Later in the day, he reiterated on a couple of occasions how difficult it had been for him to cope with the pandemonium. But with bat in hand, almost inevitably, Pujara hardly looked fazed. As always, he remained fixated on his task.
As always, he seemed to be in a trance while doing what he does best, scoring runs. Here though, he had to do this in an atmosphere that resembled a heavy metal concert.
Pujara prevailed and stroked his way to his fifth Test century in his last 19 innings. The ton set up a big total for India in their first innings, 495, giving them a lead of 313. While Pujara top-scored with 113, Rohit Sharma smashed a blistering 111 and Virat Kohli stroked his way to an aggressive 57 — Tendulkar scored 74, of course — on a day when the hosts kept their foot on the pedal and scored at a rate of nearly five runs an over.
Laying the foundation
Once more, it was India’s prolific No.3 who laid the foundation. To start with, he had to overcome the stress of batting alongside Tendulkar in potentially his last international innings. Pujara’s singles were being greeted with more frenzy than his boundaries for they were bringing the man of the moment on strike, though he did get a loud ovation when he reached his half-century.
His boundaries, most of them, were eye-catching. Seven of the 12 on the day came via the trademark Pujara cut.
He repeatedly sent the ball scurrying past the point and backward point fielders off both pace and spin, looking elegant as ever. The singles and the braces, meanwhile, were mainly tucked and clipped away behind and in front of square on the on side.
Tendulkar’s departure from the middle might have left the Wankhede crowd in stunned silence. But in a way it only triggered a tempo boost to India’s innings. Kohli walked in and cover-drove the first delivery he