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'Fitter' Pujara yearns to play for India in all formats

January 06, 2014 20:41 IST

'Fitter' Pujara yearns to play for India in all formats

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Having tasted instant success in Test cricket, India's latest batting sensation Cheteshwar Pujara tells Harish Kotian he's keen to break into the ODI team too.

Cheteshwar Pujara is on a high after some splendid batting in South Africa which has seen him rise to fifth in the ICC Test rankings for batsmen.

The 25-year-old is rated by many as one of the best young batsmen in Test cricket at the moment and India is hoping he will continue to serve the country for a long time.

For his part, Pujara is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that he stays in the frame for a long, long time.

The right-hander revealed that in recent months he worked hard on his fitness after being laid low by knee injuries twice in the last few years.

"I am paying a lot more attention to my fitness now because I know that I have been injured twice and went through knee surgeries. Now I know the importance of fitness. I hope to get fitter and achieve better results," he said, in Mumbai on Monday, on the sidelines of an event where Indian Oil showcased some of its sports stars, including India's latest Test debutant Ajinkya Rahane, former opener Wasim Jaffer, billiards and snooker World Cup winner in 2013 Aditya Mehta, young sprinter Amiya Kumar Mallick, badminton stars P Kashyap, Aparna Balan, SR Arun Vishnu, and carrom World champions Yogesh Pardeshi and K Srinivas.


Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: BCCI

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'I am working on my game and I want to improve myself as a cricketer'

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Pujara was India's top performer in South Africa, scoring 280 runs in the two-match series, at an average of 70. His record in Test cricket is impressive: 1590 runs in 17 matches, at an average of 66, including six centuries and four fifties.

While he is now a permanent fixture in the Test team, his absence from the Indian ODI team rankles him.

"I am really happy with the way I have performed recently in the last one-and-a-half years. It has been really incredible for my Test performances. I am working on my game and I want to improve myself as a cricketer. I hope to play in all formats of the game," he said.


Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters

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'I have worked really hard on my fitness in the last four to six months'

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Pujara injured his knee during the second edition of the Indian Premier League in South Africa in 2009 and was out of action for six months. He then sustained another knee injury during the fourth edition of the IPL two years later and underwent surgery, which kept him out for nearly four months.

The Saurashtra-born right-hander said the experience taught him a lot and made him work on his fitness more than before.

"I have learnt many things [from the injury]. As a sportsperson, you expect a few injuries in your career. I have come out of it; the good thing is that I have worked really hard on my fitness in the last four to six months and the results have been fantastic.

"The amount of hard work I am putting in now on my fitness and the amount of work I used to put in before… there is a major difference. It is not only helping me perform better, but also helps improve my concentration.

"When you get tired you lose your concentration and tend to get fatigued. But when you train harder, when you are fit; your concentration level improves," he added.


Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: BCCI

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'Before, I used to be little lazy, but now I know the importance of fitness'

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Pujara also confessed that before his injuries he would be a bit lazy and not give much importance to the sessions in the gymnasium.

"What I do on the field is strictly skill level, but what I am doing on the fitness is that I have a fitness trainer whom I am consulting; even my gym sessions and running sessions are regular. Before, I used to be little lazy, but now I know the importance of fitness. Even if I am travelling I do my gym sessions regularly," he said.

Thanking his employers, Indian Oil, for their role in his development as a cricketer, he said, "I played so many matches for Indian Oil which helped me improve my game and score big runs. I have played many Times Shield matches and have scored many double hundreds. All those matches helped me make it to the Indian team."


Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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