When Rahul Dravid announced his retirement from the game after the disastrous tour of Australia last year, the Indian cricket fan was a worried one. Dravid had been the backbone of the Indian batting line-up for such a long time that an Indian team without him was unthinkable.
Dravid was the one who gave the solidity to a batting line-up that had the sparklers like Sehwag, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman. All these players were exceptional batsmen with Tendulkar being the best of them all but they all needed the stability and the substance that Dravid provided at the number three position for them to bat freely and without too much tension.
They knew, as did millions of Indian cricket supporters as well as the opposition, that while Dravid was at the crease India was still in the game. The nickname 'the wall' did not do justice to Dravid as he was more than that and in fact was the impregnable fortress that opposition bowlers tried to bring down.
His batting number 3 has now been taken by Cheteshwar Pujara, who during his waiting period outside the Indian team kept getting so many hundreds, double hundreds and triple tons in first class cricket that it was inevitable that he would be compared to Dravid once he translated those tons in Test cricket.
Pujara has begun better than Dravid and his record so far promises another period of solidity for the Indian batting. He has kept his hunger for big scores intact at the Test level and like in first class cricket, his wicket has to be earned. There will inevitably be some who will say that he has to score on overseas pitches before he can be called a replacement for Dravid.
So far he has been on only one overseas tour for he has had a problem with knee injuries and that does seem to hamper his running somewhat. However, he is a hard working, industrious cricketer who will spare no efforts to overcome that and try and get better at his speciality - batting.
India’s wins have given them the comfort level to leave out Sehwag from the next two Tests. Murali Vijay has had a stop start career so far. What was letting him down was his shot selection and an over-eagerness to counter punch. In Hyderabad he displayed a range of shots but only after he was well set and had seen what the pitch was doing. The result of that patience was a score of 167, which hopefully should be the launch of a glittering career.
Ravichandran Ashwin continues to improve with every game, and when he is not getting ahead of himself, he too will pick wickets regularly. Like Vijay he also has learnt to be patient and not expect a wicket off every ball but is now plotting his dismissals craftily. Their outstanding performances have given India an unassailable lead in the Test series.
Cheteshwar Pujara for his magnificent double century is the CEAT International Cricketer of the Week.