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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Cheteshwar Pujara
'I don't like getting out'
December 30, 2008
His efforts with the bat were instrumental in ensuring Saurashtra a semi-final finish in the 2007-08 Ranji season. Besides, it helped him end up as the top scorer in the Super League, with 807 runs in eight matches (@ 73.36).
The encore has been equally, if not more, spectacular.
The 20-year-old has already amassed 876 runs in the same number of matches (@ 72.12) and ensured Saurashtra a place in the last four for a second year running.
Amongst his knocks are a masterful triple-century (302 not out) against Orissa - an innings preceded by two triple-hundreds in the C K Nayudu Trophy (under-22) - a superb 189 against Punjab followed by an equally efficient 176 against Mumbai [Images], all of them coming on home ground (Rajkot). More importantly, his season is far from over.
After enabling Saurashtra score a come-from-behind quarter-final win over Karnataka with a magnificent 112 not out, Cheteshwar Pujara took some time out to talk to Special Correspondent Bikash Mohapatra on a variety of topics. Excerpts.
So, Saurashtra qualify for the semi-finals again?
The end result (Saurashtra beating Karanataka by five wickets) was good. There was pressure to begin with but we believed in our abilities throughout.
You had a tough target (325) and were continuously on the back foot after Karnataka had taken the 116-run lead in the first innings. What, according to you, was the main reason behind this win?
The way we batted.
We had a meeting on the eve of the last day and decided to try and play positive. In any case, we had nothing to loose as we were already behind after the first innings and had lost two second innings wickets at close of play on day three.
We needed a partnership and Shitanshubhai (Kotak) and myself managed to do that.
The manner in which the middle order pitched in was really commendable.
The most important factor for us in the match was the three successive partnerships - 163 runs for fourth wicket, 77 for fifth and an undefeated 84 for the sixth - that we forged in the second innings. Because of these we came right back into the game.
Tail-enders would have struggled on this wicket. So, it was imperative for the batsmen to finish the job. I would, therefore, say it was a team effort.
And what about your innings?
My innings was important, as my role was to occupy the crease (Pujara batted for more than 51/2 hours) and converted the loose balls. But I think this innings of mine was comparatively risky.
Personally, it was one of my better efforts so far because it came in the time of need. It was a match-winning knock in a knock-out match.
Critics had pointed that your big knocks come on your home ground. But with this innings you again proved that you can score outside Rajkot� (Interrupts)
I don't have to prove any point.
Obviously, after this innings people should notice me more. But my job is to just score runs.
You are being compared to Rahul Dravid [Images], who was playing for Karnataka in the match. How much did you interact with him?
He congratulated me and told me I should continue to play the game the way I am doing it.
I didn't get much opportunity though to talk with him about batting. But he has watched me perform here and I will definitely try to talk to him in the near future.
With him not being in good form of late, some see you (who also happen to play in a similar mould) drafted in his place as a possible successor in the Test squad� (Interrupts)
I don't think it would be a good thing if I were to replace him (Dravid) in the Test team. He has proved himself many times at the international level whereas I have a lot to prove.
I want to have my place in the team and not take someone else's place.
Saurashtra is taking on the Mumbai next in the semi-finals, to be played in Chennai. Your thoughts on that match (January 4-7, 2009)?
We haven't planned anything so far but it will be a big challenge for us for sure.
They have the advantage, what with Sachin (Tendulkar), Zaheer (Khan) and Ajit (Agarkar) playing in the match.
But we will definitely try our best and focus on what we are doing.
How do you assess your season thus far?
It's been a good season for me, my best so far. I have scored runs when it has mattered.
And though I missed out on the first innings here (he made just 1), I made up for it in the second.
It is not that I have changed my batting. But the approach towards it has changed. I bat with a much more positive approach now.
You can now expect a call up to the national team any time?
If you perform you will be noticed. In any case, I don't think much about it. I just concentrate on playing my game.
You are more of a textbook player, whose game suits the longer version. How do you see yourself fitting in the ODIs, or, for that matter, the Twenty20 [Images] versions that seem to be the order of the day?
Thankfully, my strike-rate has improved over the season and that should hopefully help me stake a claim in the one-day and T20 formats.
With the second season of the Indian Premier League [Images] coming up, I hope I get to play in a few matches.
You were part of the Kolkata Knight Riders [Images] squad in the inaugural edition of the IPL but didn't get to play�
I was disappointed of course not to have played in any of the matches.
Finally, what is the reason behind Cheteshwar Pujara's remarkable consistency?
I don't like getting out. So that makes me more determined to keep scoring runs.
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra
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