The bouncer may be Australia’s best bet as they plot the downfall of India’s marathon man Cheteshwar Pujara.
The right-hander batted the tourists out of the third Test with a record-breaking show of patience, spending more than 11 hours at the crease and facing 525 balls in his double-ton to break Rahul Dravid’s mark for the longest Test knock by an Indian.
Pujara is now second on the International Cricket Council’s Test batting charts. He also scored a game-changing 92 in India’s second innings in Bangalore, where the hosts staged an impressive fightback to level the series.
The 29-year-old will be the key wicket for Australia in the Test series decider that starts on Saturday, especially given captain Virat Kohli’s well-documented struggles with the willow.
Once set he is incredibly hard to remove but if the pitch in Dharamsala has some bounce and carry then it may aid Australia’s attempts to get him cheaply.
Nothing seems to rattle Pujara, although Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc have both succeeded with short balls. Pujara fended a Hazlewood bouncer in Bangalore to gully, while Starc produced a near-unplayable brute in Pune that clipped his gloves and rocketed to keeper Matthew Wade.
“Any sort of bounce is an added bonus for the quicks against most of their batters and probably him in particular,” Hazlewood said.
“It was just a hard slog (in Ranchi).
“He’s a class player … he’s definitely a key wicket.
“He’s got a great temperament and I guess you’ve just got to try and get under his skin somehow but he just loves batting and loves batting a long time.”
Hazlewood tried to unsettle Pujara with both bouncers and barbs during his man-of-the-match knock of 202 in the third Test.
Neither worked. He ducked and weaved the former and he responded to the spray by quipping the bowler should “look at the scoreboard”.
Asked whether Pujara says much at all while batting, Hazlewood said, “Not really, I think once he’s scored a few runs he’ll then converse with you.”
Hazlewood wasn’t ready to declare his side had the wood over Kohli, who has contributed just 46 at 9.2 from five innings during the series.
Kohli’s lowest average in a completed Test series is 13.4 against England in 2014.
“Every time he doesn’t get runs, he’s closer to that big knock and being a class player it’s going to be at some stage,” Hazlewood said.
“Hopefully, it’s not this next game.”