Cheteshwar Pujara is annoying

A nervy 43 runs that seems to frustrate everyone.

Virat Kohli guides a length ball into point with soft hands. He finds a gap between  fielders and calls through a single. Cheteshwar Pujara shows no interest, Kolhi is annoyed.  The next over Pujara takes the exact same single, now the Australians are annoyed.

Today, Cheteshwar Pujara is annoying. On almost every level, at every time.


Every single time he plays an innings of any note, he's frustrating because of how people speak of him. As if he's the only patient batsmen in the world cricket. He's the 13th slowest specialist batsman in the last five years.

And nowhere near Dom Sibley or Darren Bravo. For all the talk of how batsmen are throwing their wickets away because of T20 cricket, Pujara isn't a one-off, there are heaps of patient batsmen in the world right now. He just does it better.

He's just not that slow. Scoring at a strike rate of 46 for his career, for his role, that's a perfectly acceptable speed in a Test match. But really the bothersome bit isn't how slow he is, it's that people don't look at how amazing he is at changing the pace for different situations.

You can see by this that when he feels more comfortable against a type of bowling somewhere, he scores quicker. It's pretty basic batting, he struggles against seam, so he scores far slower against it everywhere other than at home. And the more comfortable he is against spin somewhere, he ups that rate again.  So if Pujara is batting slow, it's probably not form, or on a whim, there is a cricket reason he is doing it.  Today it was the pitch and quality of the bowling. But he didn't hit fours, and that bothered people.

It's proper batting. It's not classical, it's smart.  He's not some throwback from another era, just an outstanding player from this one.

Here is why all that is displeasing, because for those who don't get Test cricket is five days, he bats too slow. For those who hate everything about the modern game, he's the last of their kind. And he's neither. His batting is not an ideological position for or against modern cricket, it's a guy trying to make runs.

When he scores, instead of focusing on how smart his innings construction can be or how graceful he is at the crease, we look at him purely in numbers. He's 25% leaves, 1258 deliveries over 31 hours last tour, 35 consecutive dots, and 17 from 88 at lunch. A Pujara innings can be one of aesthetic beauty, and yet the commentary turns into numberwang.

But I do all this too, and here is an infographic from a few years back where I digit all over him.

Pujara can pester both sides. This innings united the Australians with impatient Indian fans, to exasperate everyone, which made it a worthwhile endeavour.

For the Australians, it was the constant half chances. Pujara has such soft hands his edges don't seem to carry even to Australian slips, for quicks or spinners.  And then his pads are the opposite, inside edges seem to hit them and balloon past every strategically placed fielder. And it's not just the many half-chances he seems to create, it's the fields themselves. At one stage he had three catching fielders on the legside, which probably maddened those who believe you should bowl to proper fields.

But all those half chances were nervy for Indian fans. A stoic Pujara innings is almost a birthright now. You should feel so comfortable he is at the crease that after an over you can switch your phone to airplane mode and work in peace knowing that he has your back. This knock wasn't that. You couldn't set your watch to this innings.

His name is also troublesome for some. It doesn't seem like it should be, but the commentators on Fox had a long chat suggesting it was a tricky one. And how they helpfully called him Steve at Yorkshire. I never realised Che was so hard to pronounce (though it was only today I found out that it means Chutiya, so we don’t call him that anymore).

This isn't ideal being that Yorkshire cricket are already in trouble for how they treat Asian cricketers.

Although as painful as that entire commentary episode was, it was nothing compared to the hurt of Matthew Wade. He dove groin first into the pitch for another half chance and ended up emotionally sore and physically flat.  For half the day Aussie fielders were left prostrate on the ground, as balls bobbled around them.  Perfectly misplaced and mistimed.

That frustration was felt more by the bowlers. The problem with Pujara is that you have to go to him. He doesn't come at you, and I don't mean in a literal sense, because he uses his feet to the spinners. I mean when he plays shots; he doesn't chase wide balls, manufacture runs, and is not a huge fan of the stolen single. You have only what he allows.   So he tortures you as a bowler because good balls don't affect him. You need to find his discipline when bowling, this zen mindset. To beat Pujara you need to be Pujara.  He transforms you into something you don't want to be. And even when he wasn't at his best, facing an incredible bowling attack in decent conditions, he spent half a day rebuffing their immense talents.

And then finally, after 218 minutes he gave Australia a full chance. Vexing those who thought his safety-first approach would save India, and those who believed if he'd batted quicker India would be in a better place at stumps.

Pujara had batted very long, gone too soon, been incredibly slow and ridden his luck while remaining largely stationary. It wasn't just an agitating innings, it was epically annoying.


Ajinkya Rahane drives a ball wide of mid off and sees a chance of a stolen single.  Virat Kohli takes off. Rahane changes his mind, and Kohli is run out. Kolhi is annoyed.  India is annoyed. A few minutes later Rahane is struck right in front of the stumps, given out, and then India donates a review as well.  India and Kohli remain annoyed. Hanuma Vihari is out soon after, and ten bad Rahane minutes are devastating. Annoyance is the official mood of India now.

What India would give for more of Pujara. Shuffling along, inside edging into gaps, failing to score boundaries, saying no to singles early, and keeping out the balls on the stumps.

Cheteshwar Pujara is annoying. On almost every level, at every time. He's annoyingly good, even when he makes a nervy scratchy slow 43.