Cheteshwar Pujara's batting is a throwback to eras gone by, not so much in technique - he is unusually bottom-handed for someone who pays his bills through Test cricket - as in temperament. In an era of counterattacking batsmen, Pujara is a rare successful defensive batsman who takes pleasure in grinding down attacks and then feasting on them. He steps down to spinners but keeps the ball along the carpet, he doesn't tire of scoring runs no matter the opposition or venue, his fitness is more about what is required for batting for long periods as opposed to bulging biceps with tattoos on them.
Son and pupil of former Ranji player Arvind, Pujara grew up piling on big scores even as a boy: a triple-century in Under-14 cricket, and a double against England in Under-19. Yet for years and years Pujara's first-class runs were scoffed at: he played for cricketing backwaters Saurashtra, and Rajkot, his hometown, is known for one of the flattest tracks in India. Pujara worked harder than most to be taken seriously, and his chance in Tests came in his sixth year in first-class cricket, behind contemporaries who had made a name through limited-overs cricket. Pujara grabbed the chance when it arrived: after getting out to a shooter in his first Test innings, he came in ahead of Rahul Dravid at No. 3 and waltzed his way to an excellent 72 in a tricky chase against Australia in Bangalore in October 2010. He soon became the joint-fastest Indian to 1000 Test runs. When he scored his next domestic triple, people were not scoffing anymore.
The ride wasn't easy: a knee operation all but ended his limited-overs career, and he kept getting dropped from the Test side for flashier batsmen until he proved his value to a Test line-up with a show with immaculate defensive batting in India's historic first series win in Australia in 2018-19. He faced 1258 balls in the series, the highest for a visiting batsman who played four Tests in a series in Australia, and scored three centuries to bat Australia's bowling into submission.