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Pujara vs Dravid: A statistical overview

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Cheteshwar_Pujara_Rahul_Dravid_comparison_India_CricketDuring the course of his magnificent 123 at Adelaide against Australia a few weeks ago, Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara crossed the landmark of 5,000 Test runs. Interestingly, Pujara reached the milestone in his 108th innings – exactly the number of innings that Indian batting legend Rahul Dravid had taken to arrive at this figure. In fact, Pujara and Dravid have now reached the 3,000, 4,000 and 5,000-run mark in Tests in the same number of innings.

Over the course of his 8-year career, Pujara has often been compared to Dravid. He bats at No.3, has a solid technique, is a true grafter, and often plays the role of the sheet anchor – all traits that Dravid possessed in his heyday. The comparisons with Dravid were inevitable.

Not including the ongoing 4th Test, Pujara is 67 Tests old. It would be interesting to observe Rahul Dravid’s numbers at exactly that point in his career compared to Pujara.

(Numbers accurate to the end of the 3rd Test of the 2018/19 Border-Gavaskar Trophy)

Career summary:

After 67 Tests, Dravid had amassed 5,483 runs in 114 innings at an outstanding average of 54.28 with 14 hundreds and 27 fifties. His best at the time was the spectacular 217 against England at The Oval in 2002.

Pujara has managed 5,233 runs in 113 innings at a very healthy average of 49.83 with 17 hundreds and 20 fifties. His best has been the unbeaten 206* against England at Ahmedabad in 2012.

Pujara has hit 616 boundaries and 11 sixes while Dravid had hit 688 fours and 6 sixes at that stage in his career.

Suffice to say, their numbers are pretty similar at this stage. An interesting point to note is the number of balls faced by both the batsmen – 13,435 by Dravid compared to 11,309 by Pujara. This makes a significant difference in their strike rates: Dravid’s 40.81 pales in comparison to the Pujara’s strike-rate of 46.27. Even Dravid’s overall career strike-rate – 42.51 – didn’t increase by much.

These numbers are fascinating because Pujara gets a lot of stick for his “ultra slow” approach, which apparently puts a lot of pressure on the team, and yet Dravid was hailed as ‘The Wall’ for holding the fort and batting slowly. Yes, times have changed and Test cricket has quickened in pace. But Pujara, one still feels, is battling perception.

Home and away:

The best way to assess a Test batsman’s quality is to analyze their home and away numbers. While a batsman is always expected to do well at home, the true test of their skills is how they perform in alien conditions.

This is where Dravid scores above Pujara. After 67 Tests, Dravid had featured in 36 matches away from home and scored 3,134 runs at a spectacular average of 59.13, with 9 hundreds and 15 fifties. His highest away score at the time was 217 against England at The Oval in 2002.

Pujara has 2,016 runs in 31 away Tests at a decent average of 38.03 with 7 hundreds and 6 fifties. His highest away score has been the 153 against South Africa at Johannesburg in 2013.

Away numbers for these two batsmen, however, can be a tad misleading as they also include Asia, where conditions are almost like home for Indian batsmen, and places like West Indies and Zimbabwe – countries that are not known for their might in Test cricket over the years. For a better perspective, an analysis of their performances in the SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) countries would be needed.

Pujara, at this point, has collected 1,500 runs in 24 Tests in the SENA countries at a moderate average of 32.60 with 4 hundreds and 6 fifties.

At 67 Tests, Dravid was as brilliant in the SENA countries as elsewhere. He had 1,582 runs from 16 Tests in those countries at an average of 58.59 with 6 hundreds and 5 fifties.

Clearly, there is some work to be done for Pujara in overseas conditions. But he has been improving, as this Australia tour shows. At the start of 2015, his away average was a poor 29.40 and today it stands at a decent 38.03.

In home conditions, both Dravid and Pujara have dominated. 67 Tests in, Dravid had played 31 matches at home, scoring 2,349 runs at 48.93 with 5 hundreds and 12 fifties. His best was the unbeaten 200 against Zimbabwe at Delhi in 2000.

Pujara has an even better record at home – 3,217 runs in 36 Tests at a fantastic average of 61.86 with 10 hundreds and 14 fifties. His best score at home is also his career-best – an unbeaten 206 against England at Ahmedabad in 2012.

If one takes Asia as a whole, Pujara beats Dravid comprehensively, averaging a spectacular 64.40 in 40 Tests, far above Dravid’s 48.91 in 38 Tests.

It can be safe to conclude that at this stage in his career, Cheteshwar Pujara is much more dominant in Asian conditions than Dravid was at the same point in his. But ‘The Wall’ was far superior to Pujara in overseas conditions. It remains to be seen if Pujara can lessen that gap in the coming years.

Batting in second and final innings of Test:

Batting in the first innings and the second are two very different propositions in Test cricket, as the pitch generally deteriorates by the time the second innings commences and batting becomes pretty difficult.

Batting for the second time in a Test, Pujara has scored 1,560 runs in 48 innings at an average of 36.27 with 2 hundreds and 9 fifties; his highest being the terrific 153 against South Africa at Johannesburg in 2013.

Dravid had a much better record in comparison. He had garnered 1,849 runs in 47 innings at an average of 47.41 with 4 hundreds and 10 fifties. Dravid’s best 2nd innings score at the time was the epic, match-changing 180 against Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001.

Perhaps the toughest challenge for a Test batsman is to bat in the 4th innings of a match. It is a trial of immense skill and determination to bat last in a Test and perform successfully. Here, too, Dravid has done better than Pujara.

In the 4th innings of a match, Pujara has just 469 runs in 20 innings at an average of 27.58 with just 2 fifties. His highest is the unbeaten 82 against Australia at Delhi in 2013 in a chase of 155.

Dravid, however, had performed much better in the 4th innings of a Test by the time he had played 66 Tests - 720 runs in 23 innings at an average of 45.00 with one hundred and 5 fifties. His best was 103* against New Zealand at Hamilton in 1999 in a drawn affair.

Contribution in matches won and lost:

The last bit of comparison between Dravid and Pujara can perhaps be understood by judging their contributions in victories and defeats.

Pujara has featured in 38 Test victories till now and has contributed 3,506 runs at a very impressive average of 62.60 with 12 hundreds and 16 fifties. His numbers dip significantly in his contributions towards matches that India has lost – 810 runs in 16 Tests at 26.12 with 2 hundreds and 2 fifties.

Dravid had similar numbers in this criteria, having contributed 1,755 runs in 33 innings that India had won, at an average of 62.67 with 4 hundreds and 10 fifties. But in matches that India lost, he had only managed 1,163 runs in 44 innings at 28.36 with 1 hundred and 5 fifties.

This indicates how crucial Dravid was and Pujara is for the success of their respective sides.

Conclusion:

Cheteshwar Pujara still has a very long way to go. The numbers above do prove that the comparisons with Rahul Dravid are not completely without merit. There are certain similarities in the careers of these two players, although Dravid is a notch ahead.

These comparisons will not go away in a hurry. In fact, if Pujara can improve on his form, such appraisals are likely to increase, as the similarities between them are obvious. But that should not be a problem for Indian cricket fans. If Pujara gets anywhere close to Dravid’s 13,288 runs and 164 Tests, then Indian and international cricket will be richer for the experience.



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