Kotla, family gears up for Pujara’s 100th Test

- February 16, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

Second Test, a must-win for Australia after the crushing defeat in the first, begins in Delhi on Friday as India start as favourites again. It will also be Cheteshwar Pujara’s 100th Test

Century-man: India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara will play his 100th Test from Friday. Only 12 other Indian cricketers have done this so far // Photos: Getty

The second Test between India and Australia that gets underway at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds of the Arun Jaitley Stadium here from Friday will not just be an opportunity for the host to take a 2-0 unassailable lead in the four-Test series. It will also mark Cheteshwar Pujara’s 100th Test match.

The right-handed batsman, who has been India’s batting mainstay in both their overseas tour wins in Australia, will have his family by his side for this Test.

Father Arvind Pujara is being accompanied by close to 20 people.

“The entire family has flown in to Delhi to witness this occasion. Besides me, Cheteshwar’s wife and child, there are others like his cousins, uncles. His in-laws too will be arriving soon,” said Pujara senior to Patriot after reaching Delhi from hometown Rajkot on Thursday afternoon, the eve of the Test.

Spin twins: Spinners Todd Murphy (right) and Matthew Kuhnemann of Australia interact during Australia’s practice session on Thursdday. The duo may play together

“To play 100 Tests is a big achievement. It requires a lot of sacrifice. You have to maintain high level of fitness, take care of food and sleep, be extremely disciplined to survive to play these many Test matches. It is not just about skills. So, obviously, being a massive achievement, we all wanted to witness it,” said the proud father who has burnt the proverbial midnight oil to inculcate skills and discipline in his son especially after the batsman lost his mother at a young age.

Pujara, who will be only the 13th Indian cricketer to play a century of Tests, was grateful to his father and said he himself had never thought he would be able to play these many long format internationals.

Close look: Pat Cummins (on haunches) inspects the pitch ahead of the second Test. The turn in Indian pitches has put the Australians on the defensive

“It means a lot to me and my family. My father has played a very important role in my journey. He has coached me since my childhood. So, he is very excited. He will be here [at the ground] on Friday. My wife too has been very supportive. In a cricketer’s life, family support is very important. I am very thankful to my family, friends and the coaches I have worked with. They have played an important role in my cricketing career,” Pujara told the media on Thursday morning in a conference.

“When I started playing cricket and made my [Test] debut, I never thought about playing 100 Test matches,” added the 35-year-old who has scored 7,021 runs in 99 Tests.

The India No. 3 batsman will be felicitated on Friday morning by the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).

“He will be felicitated before the match by association president Jaitley with a souvenir,” confirmed DDCA joint secretary Rajan Manchanda to Patriot.

First Test in five years

This will be the first Test in Delhi in five years and is extremely important for Australia to win or at least draw to stay in with a chance to win the series. Australia were crushed in the first Test by an innings and 132 runs.

Think-Tank: India skipper Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid walk back to the dressing room after inspecting the pitch at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds

Australia have lost their last three series to India, including two at their home.

The pitch has been the focus after a controversy erupted in the first Test in Nagpur but those in the know say that it will be the usual low and slow Kotla wicket. On Thursday, India skipper Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid had a long look at the surface while on Wednesday both Steve Smith and David Warner had spent quite a while inspecting it.

While India are expected to retain the side that won the first Test, Australia may change their batting, bringing in Travis Head ahead of Matt Renshaw, whose inclusion ahead of Head in first Test had come under scrutiny.

“Travis [Head] has been awesome. He has been working hard on his game. He is absolutely part of the conversation for this Test as he was in the first,” Australia skipper Pat Cummins told media.