After enjoying a prolific two-year run with the bat on comeback to the Test side in 2012, Cheteshwar Pujara endured a painful dip in his performances during the 2014-15 season on tours to New Zealand, England and Australia which resulted in him being dropped from the side at the end of the year.
Not to be picked for games in Sydney, Fattulah and until the final Test of the tour of Sri Lanka the following year, Pujara then responded with a solid hundred on a green top at SSC to help India pull off a much-needed series win away from home - a Test he might have remained at the bench for if the team's then preferred openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan were available.
"It wasn't easy," Pujara told India Today. "I am a human being and there's no doubt that when I was left out of the Indian team I felt bad. But I did understand that what I can control is to focus on my game. I knew they'll be times when I'll get my opportunity back. So I had to be prepared for that. I just focussed on that and I didn't get bogged down because I was left out."
"I worked hard on my game, I knew what will come if I get an opportunity. So I started working on those lines and when my opportunity came, I was very confident. I knew that since I had played in 2014 in England, I'd played a lot of county matches. So I knew what will happen in some of the stadiums. The biggest advantage was I was familiar with the conditions and I just trusted myself."
However, even that effort, and also the one in Mohali later in the year when he helped India win a low-scoring game on a rank turner against South Africa, weren't enough for Pujara to feel as secure about his spot as he did before this phase and soon afterwards, he was dropped from the side again for failing in a couple of Tests on the 2016 tour of West Indies.
It is then that the real turnaround happened as the 32-year-old dominated the prolonged home season, facing attacks from New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia in 2016-17 before going on to help India win yet another series in Sri Lanka and playing great knocks in country's rare victories abroad in Jo'burg, Trent Bridge, Adelaide and Melbourne.
Pujara had a legendary 2018-19 tour of Australia as he scored three hundreds in seven innings to help India win a Test series down under for the very first time; years after his retirement, that's the series the exceptional right-hander will be fondly remembered for.
(Inputs from India Today)