Batting great Sunil Gavaskar heaped praise on Cheteshwar Pujara after the Indian first drop brought up his maiden Test century in England on the second day of the ongoing fourth Test in Southampton.
Gavaskar called Pujara's unbeaten 132 a "proper Test match innings" and said the seasoned campaigner gave a sense of security to the visitors on Friday.
Pujara single-handedly made sure India went past England's first innings total of 246 with a handy lead of 27 runs.
He had stitched a 92-run stand with captain Virat Kohli and then added 78 runs while batting with the No. 10 and 11 — Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. There were quite a few phases in the wonderfully-constructed knock as Pujara changed gears with ease and dominated the English attack.
"It was a proper Test match innings because the situation demanded a lot of patience. The England bowlers were bowling well and the ball was doing a lot off the surface. It wasn't easy batting out there. But he [Pujara] did that," Gavaskar said during the post-match show on Sony Six.
"That's what he's very good at. Holding one end and nudging the ones and twos and the occasional boundaries. He gave security to the team that he is there at one end and others can bat more freely at the other.
"When it came towards the end, it was important to get a psychological advantage with a lead. He was playing the lofted shots. In the context of the match, a 27-run-lead might not be a big thing but it just gives India a feeling that the momentum has swung back their way."
'Can't always look at form while considering Pujara for selection'
Gavaskar also insisted that Pujara should be playing the first couple of Tests on overseas tours regardless of his form as the former captain believes the Saurashtra batsman provides solidity to the batting order.
Pujara was dropped from the playing XI for the first Test of the ongoing series at Edgbaston after his ordinary run — 172 runs in six matches — in the county season.
"In his case, you can't always look at form because you know what he's done for the country in the past," Gavaskar said.
"Yes, he didn't get runs in country cricket but when you come to England early in the season — in the months of April, May and even June, runs are not easy to come by because the pitches are fresh and the bowlers are fresh.
"He needs to be in the team for the first couple of Tests (in away series). India needs to go in with six batsmen, you can be a bowler short but six batsmen is a necessity. In overseas conditions, India always struggle in the first two Tests [of a series]."
Pujara had been under the cosh over the last few seasons as the team management had raised issues about his scoring rate.
The dependable first drop was feeling the pressure and it was evident with the way he went after a shot ball before giving away his wicket during the first innings of the Nottingham Test.
Gavaskar had also hit out against the team management after the bizarre dismissal and urged the think tank not to mess with Pujara's mind.