Bhubaneswar : Cheteshwar Pujara’s story of success and redemption unfolds like the plot of a movie— one that uplifts, inspires, and makes you tear up. His is the story that every Indian middle-class family will relate to — one where success is built on the firm but the beautiful foundation of a father’s passion and discipline, and a mother’s unconditional love.
On one hand, Pujara’s story is the story of a father’s determination. Cheteshwar’s father, Arvind Pujara, was a clerk in the Indian Railways, stationed in Rajkot. Recognizing his child’s talent when playing gully cricket with him at the age of 5, Pujara senior decided to give every ounce of his energy and meagre resources he had to further his son’s cricketing dreams. This meant Pujara had to follow the most intense discipline — from not playing dandiya so that he could train early in the morning to not even going out to play tennis-ball cricket in the gully so that his technique stayed on-point.
There’s the story of a mother’s sacrifice too. Pujara fondly remembers his mother buying a bat worth Rs. 1500 for him (an extravagant purchase for a lower-middle-class family in the 1990s). She then paid the sports store for the bat in instalments— Rs. 100 one month, Rs. 200 another — whatever she could save after the household expenses. Pujara even talks about how his mother stitched cricket pads for him because the full-size pads didn’t fit his tiny frame. Most importantly, Pujara’s mother (who’s no more) always knew that he would play for the Indian team, with a conviction that never wavered throughout her life — and that conviction gave Cheteshwar the confidence during his early cricketing days.
This fairy-tale story has an even more inspiring ending. Turns out, Cheteshwar and his father realized that they didn’t want any aspiring cricketer in their hometown Rajkot to struggle the way he had to. And they decided to set up a cricket academy from scratch — helping young cricketers with all the coaching and infrastructure they need to succeed. Cheteshwar’’s father set up the entire facility — bringing over truckloads of black soil and supervising the entire construction.
Yet, Pujara’s academy is fairly low-key. They don’t believe in any kind of marketing, in fact, the academy doesn’t even have a name. As Cheteshwar says, “this academy has been built for a noble cause. The aim is to build good cricketers, and for that, we don’t need any marketing. It’s a space where players can come and just focus on the game.”
In an age of hyper-marketing and larger-than-life stories, Cheteshwar Pujara is a breath of fresh air. His amazing journey backed by his simplicity and humility makes him an absolute delight to watch — both on and off the field.
Cricbuzz’s new show Spicy Pitch takes you through Pujara’s entire journey in a special episode that airs on Cricbuzz’s native and social media platforms this Saturday, the 29th of February.