The grind was for real and so was the patience. Though Cheteshwar Pujara received a huge applause after scoring his first run off 54 balls, the wry smile on his face was an indication of how tough the pitch was, how testing the conditions were and how much it took out of him to get off the mark. For Pujara, that morning session was a test of his patience and was one of the toughest pitches he had played on.
“After a point I wanted to get off the mark. But as you saw, it was a bit difficult to rotate the strike,” Pujara said. “This is one of the toughest pitches I have played on, so you need to take your time and you need to get used to the bounce and lateral movement. It was difficult for me early on but as I batted more it became easier for me.”
Post that run, Pujara looked like Pujara. Rocking on the backfoot, punching a few boundaries, driving a few, running hard, leaving and ducking and applying himself to the best of his abilities. There were a lot of ocassions when he got beaten, but that was just an indication of how the South Africa pacers were bowling at the right line and length consistently. Pujara reckoned, things will only get tougher going forward in this Test match and South Africa could well be on the backfoot come Day 2.
“I never felt that I was in on this wicket. There was a lot of deviation. When you bat for a bit, things do get easier, but I don’t think you can be ‘in’ on this wicket. If someone scores a hundred, it will be a very brilliant knock. The pitch has a lot of bounce, it has seam movement and there is enough pace now. We had to work hard to score runs, but the total we have (187) is as good as scoring 300 on any wicket. As we saw, we got a wicket, and if we bowl well, I think we’ll get them out. I would say it was a good day for us.”
When the visitors were playing five bowlers, conditions suiting to them and had already won the toss, why the decision to bat first, most wondered? “As the game progresses, we are very sure that this pitch will be difficult to bat on,” Pujara answered. “As we saw even in the later stages of today, the cracks are opening up and a couple of balls deviated a lot. I haven’t seen deviation like that before. As the game progresses I think this pitch will have variable bounce and cracks will open up and it will be difficult to bat on. According to the weather forecast, it will be overcast and there will be more help for the fast bowlers. The first session will be very crucial for us and we will be looking to get them out before 150.”