Ranchi, Mar 21: Lavishing praise on Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha for stitching a record 199-run stand during the drawn third Test against Australia in Ranchi, Indian skipper Virat Kohli on Monday said that it was the 'best' partnership he has ever seen.
In reply to Australia's big first-inning total of 451, India's marathon man Pujara and wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha produced an extraordinary batting performance as they not only helped India to go behind the Australian total but also guided the side to take a substantial first innings-lead.
Pujara (202) scored his third double century and shared a crucial 199-run seventh-wicket stand with Saha (117), who also dominated the Australian bowlers and smashed his third century. The duo ensured that India declare at 603/9 and take a healthy first inning-lead of 152 runs.
After being reduced to 63-4 at lunch in their second innings on Day five, Marsh (53) and Handscomb (72*) displayed a fighting performance as the duo went on to share a gritting 124-run stand for the fifth wicket to help Australia reach 204-6 in their second innings and avert defeat.
"KL and M Vijay, but the partnership between Saha and Pujara is the best I have seen. We didn't expect a 150 lead. Yesterday two wickets, we thought we had a good chance, but credit to the two batsmen [Marsh and Handscomb], they batted really well," Kohli said in a post match conference.
Describing Man of the Match Pujara as 'priceless', Kohli also admitted that the former is the most composed player in the team who is always ready to take challenge and bat under pressure.
"Sometimes I feel really bad for him that people don't understand his importance so much in this team. You know what a valuable player he is for us. He is the most composed player we have in the team. He is willing to grind for his runs, he does not mind batting under pressure, and he likes to take the challenge of batting long. Someone like that is priceless to have in the team," Kohli said after India settled for a draw on the final day at the JSCA International Stadium Complex here on Monday.
"Whenever the pressure situation comes, he is always ready to put his hand up and plays long for the team and hold up one end, which I think is a great quality in him. This season he has been outstanding. He has contributed throughout," he added.
The swashbuckling batsman also admitted that Pujara has been outstanding this season before expressing hope that the latter would continue to bat until crucial last Test.
"He's not being spoken about or being in the focus too much but I think he deserves much more than that. People need to take notice of what he has done this season. He's been outstanding with the bat and I hope he can continue until the last Test," Kohli insisted.
While heaping praise on Saha's brilliant knock, the Test skipper said the former has always stood up for the side whenever needed before adding that it was due to his partnership with Pujara that his side managed to come close to the winning position.
"Saha's knock was brilliant for us. He always stood up for us whenever the team needed him. This game was no different. His partnership with Pujara was the reason why we could have a go at winning the Test. A lot of credit goes to him also," he said.
"Again not being mentioned too much, but he deserves a lot of credit. He is one guy who is willing to do anything for the team wherever we ask him to bat he bats. He has no problems in batting, after or before Ashwin. You really feel glad for a guy like him. I'm really happy that he performed in a big pressure match in a difficult situation and put us in a position to have a shot at winning the game," Kohli added.
Kohli did not stop there and further went on to praise all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who returned with nine wickets and also contributed with the bat with an unbeaten 54.
"Jadeja was outstanding, his economy on this wicket is impressive. He proved why he is joint number one bowler. Whenever Jadeja came to bowl, he picked up a wicket or two every three-four overs. He was hitting the roughs consistently. It was always attacking the batsmen," he said.
With the draw, the four-match Test series remains levelled at 1-1. The two sides will now lock horns in the final match in Dharamsala beginning March 25.