South Africa’s fast bowler Dale Steyn believes Cheteshwar Pujara has lost his ability to work the ball on the leg-side. Steyn recalled that Pujara was strong on his pads and used to consistently score when the bowler targeted him on the stumps. However, Pujara has been struggling in the recent past and hasn’t scored runs at a decent average.
In fact, Pujara’s average throughout the World Test Championship cycle was 29, which is well below his standard. Furthermore, Pujara came under the scanner for his low strike rate and going into his own shell.
Steyn believes Pujara also used to cut the ball towards the off-side on the Indian pitches as they are on the slow side but he is getting hurried by the bowlers in the overseas conditions.
Meanwhile, Pujara had scored 521 runs in four Test matches against Australia in the 2018-19 series and played a key role in India’s first historic Test series win on the Australian soil. But the right-hander from Saurashtra hasn’t been at his best in the last couple of years. Pujara has been found wanting and his bat is also coming down at an angle.
The right-hander could not deliver the goods with the bat in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand as he managed only eight and 15 runs in each of the innings.
“Out of my memory, I just remember Pujara playing great off his legs. Very, very good off his legs, and eyes underneath the ball. But I do remember him playing some magical cut shots and backfoot drives. Maybe on pitches that a little bit quicker – and Indian wickets are not quick – he played some beautiful balls underneath his eyes through the cover. It’s a part of the game that I feel he has lost,” Steyn said on ESPNCricinfo.
Steyn added that Pujara would have played the shot towards the off-side if he was in a better position on the backfoot but rather ended up edging it to first slip.
“That shot today that he played, if he was in a better position, a couple of years maybe, he would have gotten more on the backfoot and punched it through the covers, whereas he just stood there half and half on his front foot. Overall a very soft dismissal – running it down to first slip is a very peculiar way of getting out for a top batter.”
Steyn opined that the good bowlers won’t bowl a lot of bad balls at the International stage and Pujara will need to find a way to get his runs on the good balls.
“That’s the thing I have seen lacking in Pujara. I’m so used to him rocking onto his backfoot and playing with his hands and good feet movement. He’s kind of lost that part of his game. And if you’re only hanging on the front foot, good bowlers will not bowl half-volleys to you. And you’ve got to turn good balls into good shots. That’s the difference between Test cricket and First-Class cricket. He’s missing out on a lot of runs there,” reckons Steyn.