Test mainstay Cheteshwar Pujara may possess a rock-solid defence and textbook batting technique, but his recent exploits against New Zealand in the World Test Championship (WTC) final has drawn a lot of criticism. Known for his sluggish batting approach, Pujara received major flak on social media for not putting away "bad deliveries" during his stay at the crease.
Pujara managed only eight runs in 54 deliveries in the first innings of the match. In fact, it took 36 balls to score his first runs at the marquee clash. The No.3 batsman had a mediocre outing in the second innings too, scoring 80-ball 15 before falling prey to Kyle Jamieson. To make things worse, Pujara even botched up a Ross Taylor catch in slips while New Zealand were inching closer to the fourth-innings target of 139.
Veteran South Africa pacer Dale Steyn believes the Saurashtra batsman has lost his ability to play on his back foot, resulting in a dearth of runs. Pujara's last Test century came in January 2019, during India's historic series win in Australia.
"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 are 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 also said that Pujara would've escaped Jamieson's wicket-taking delivery if he was more on his backfoot while punching it away.
"That shot he played today, 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 top batters," he said.
During the course of the two-year World Test Championship (WTC) cycle, Pujara failed to notch up a ton and scored at an average of less than 30. He'll be next seen in action during India's upcoming five-Test series against England.
"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," Steyn further said