India team selection meets have, for a long time now, been eagerly awaited events. In recent summers, though, there’s been an air of impatience about the result of these meets. This is because for the last two years, cricket-watchers have waited for one man’s name on squad lists. A man who, by all accounts but the selectors’, should have played for India years ago. On 19 September 2010, Krishnamachari Srikanth’s selection panel said that Yuvraj Singh was out of the squad against Australia, and Cheteshwar Pujara was in.
Pujara’s rise is marked by big innings, notably his collection of triple centuries. He scored his first at 13, when he ransacked an under-14 Baroda team for 306. Seven years later, in three weeks, he hit three more triple-centuries—of which one was nearly a quadruple. That year, he hit 867 runs in his first eight Ranji Trophy matches. His consistency has not diminished since.
Long before Pujara was born, his grandfather, Shivlal Pujara, played cricket for the state of Dharangadhra. Then, his father and uncle briefly represented Saurashtra.
Cricketers often talk about the vast gap between international and domestic oppositions. Some prolific domestic players famously fail to deliver on their promise at the highest levels. Pujara has said he is aware of this. So, when he isn’t playing, he prepares with the bowling machine set at ‘Shoaib’. The workout has helped. On a recent tour of England, Pujara scored over 300 runs in a limited overs’ tournament, and then a double hundred against West Indies A. The showing left Praveen Amre, the India A coach, impressed, but Dave Whatmore, his coach at Kolkata Knight Riders, made known his disappointment when Yuvraj was chosen instead for the Sri Lanka tour. The feeling didn’t last long.