If you perform in Tests, you can succeed in every format: Pujara
‘As an individual I don’t have to rate myself. I have already performed in Test cricket,’ says India’s latest batting sensation Cheteshwar Pujara. Harish Kotian reports.
India’s poor performances away from home in One-Day Internationals forced the selectors to include the dependable Cheteshwar Pujara, who for a large part of his career was reckoned as a Test specialist, in the squad for the just-concluded Asia Cup.
As luck would have it, he failed to break into the playing eleven for the entire tournament. India returned empty-handed, having been knocked out in the group stages following defeats to Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
With the World Cup to be played in Australia-New Zealand in 11 months, it is not surprising that Pujara is leaving no stone unturned to ensure he leaves the team management and captain with no choice but give him a deserved call-up in the near future.
Not only has he taken to bowling in the nets, but is also working hard on his stroke-play to improve his chances in the limited-overs’ format, especially T20, with the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League scheduled next month.
“For T20s, definitely I am looking to add a few more shots to my batting. I have time to prepare before the IPL, and I will prepare for it accordingly,” he said, in Mumbai on Friday.
“I want to be a little more analytical when I play T20s. When I will be playing T20s, I want to analyse what shots I will play against which bowler. That is what I want to practice now. T20 is more analytical and it goes quite fast. You have to be switched on all the time. In T20s you have to start playing your strokes from ball one,” the right-hander added.
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Image: Cheteshwar Pujara at the launch of Gillette's first ever special edition India razors in Mumbai on friday
'I was advised not to bowl. But now I am fully fit and there is no restriction'
Pujara got a rare opportunity in the ODIs in Zimbabwe last year, when India sent a depleted team, but failed to make most of it, scoring just 13 runs in the two innings he got to play.
The 26-year-old says the more he plays limited-overs’ cricket at the international level the more he will learn about batting.
He has a healthy record in List A matches, having aggregated 2947 runs in 68 games, at an average of 54, and is confident of thriving in ODIs too.
"I haven’t thought of adding anything new to my batting. I haven’t played limited-overs’ matches internationally. It is only once I play that I will get to know which areas I need to work on.
"As far as my strike rate is concerned in domestic cricket, it is pretty good. I don’t need to do anything extra, because my technique is such that I will be able to score runs with the kind of shots I play," he said.
Pujara said his decision to take up leg-spin bowling was not based on desperation to break into the ODI team, but on his recovery from the knee injury which prevented him from bowling earlier in his career.
"I would always bowl in junior cricket. I have five first class wickets. Then I had two knee injuries in the second and fourth edition of the IPL which stopped me from bowling; I was advised not to bowl. But now I am fully fit and there is no restriction. I thought of starting it again and it was a good way to learn something about the game.
"I have always been working on my batting all this while, so it was time to learn or develop something new," he said.
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Image: Cheteshwar Pujar bowls in the nets during a team training session at Supersport Park, Centurion, on December 14, 2010 in Pretoria, South Africa
Photographs: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images
'I am hopeful I will get an opportunity in limited-overs cricket very soon'
Pujara, who was snapped up by Kings XI Punjab for Rs 1.9 crore at the IPL 7 auction, is hoping to use the upcoming T20 tournament as an opportunity to hone his batting skills.
"IPL is always a huge opportunity and a great platform for all players. But that’s not the end of it. It is irrelevant whether I perform in it or not. I want to work as hard as I can. The more matches I play, the better will be exposure against some international bowlers. That will definitely help me in all formats," he said.
The Saurashtra batsman boasts of an impressive record in Test cricket, having scored 1650 in 19 matches, at an average of 58, including six centuries and four fifties.
Asked if he is finding it difficult to shake off the Test specialist tag, he replied: "As an individual I don’t have to rate myself. I have already performed in Test cricket. Legends have said that if you perform in Test cricket, you can succeed in every format. I am hopeful I will get an opportunity in limited-overs cricket very soon."
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Image: Cheteshwar Pujara (right) with former India batting icons Dilip Vengsarkar and Rahul Dravid (centre) at the launch of Gillette's first ever special edition India razors in Mumbai on Friday