From patience in maths to patience in life and on the cricket field, this outstanding piece on Cheteshwar Pujara has to be read and savoured. The author, Sandeep Dwiwedi, grew up with Pujara in the Indian Railways compound in Rajkot. He saw the grind that the now legendary test batsman’s parents – Arvind and Rina – had to go through to support Pujara’s training. Arvind, an Railway employee, was also Cheteshwar’s coach and from the time his son was 8, Arvind Pujara taught him to play straight in the local playground under a neem tree.
Father and son lost their biggest supporter when in the mid-2000s, Rina Pujara, passed away after battling cancer. And yet, even as coach’s around India kept berating Cheteshwar his slow strike rate, father & son maintained their faith in playing with the straight bat.
As Cheteshwar piled up the runs in domestic cricket, the legend whose shoes he would go on to fill spotted him playing a match for Indian Oil in Bangalore. “Cheteshwar was in Bangalore playing for his long-time employers, Indian Oil Company, in a corporate tournament. As usual he was scoring heavily. He had scored a couple of hundreds and was nearing the third. That’s when Rahul Dravid, the then India captain, turned up at the ground for a jog. The batsman on the centre square made him curious. He asked the scorer. True to his profession he also gave the run details of the boy who would go on to fill Dravid’s shoes as India’s reliable No.3.
It was a Saurashtra Cricket Association official who told Arvind about this. “From the stadium, he called Niranjanbhai (BCCI old hand and SCA secretary). He told him ‘take care of this boy’,” recalls Arvind. Later when Dravid came to Rajkot for a Ranji game, he would meet Cheteshwar again. Standing in the slips, he had a closer and longer look at the Saurashtra No.5. “After the game, he called the Saurashtra captain and told him that Cheteshwar should bat up the order. This shows his class,” says Arvind. Years later, Pujara would make his Test debut and he would bat at No. 5 behind Dravid and Tendulkar.”
The rest is history. A great cricketer’s achievements captured in the appropriate context by the country’s best newspaper.
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