Tendulkar helped me stay focused in the noisy stadium: Pujara
Sachin Tendulkar’s sparkling half-century was the highlight of India’s dominating performance as the hosts closed in on another crushing victory over the West Indies, on Day 2 of the second and final Test, at the Wankhede stadium, in Mumbai, on Friday.
Tendulkar, who is retiring from cricket, gave his home supporters plenty to cheer about as he hit a fluent 74. His 118-ball knock was laced with 12 boundaries and the crowd at the Wankhede cheered every second of his 150-minute stay at the crease.
There were other major contributors too for the Indians, with the young duo of Cheteshwar Pujara (113) and Rohit Sharma (111) hitting centuries to help the hosts post a huge total of 495 in their first innings.
West Indies, who were bundled out for 182 in their first innings, fared no better in their second essay and were left reeling at 43 for three in 12.2 overs before stumps were drawn. They will need a miracle on Day 3 to avoid a 2-0 series whitewash.
It is not just Pujara’s century that will be remembered; another important stat was recorded against his name on Friday.
Pujara is set to go down in history as Tendulkar’s last batting partner, and he admitted that initially it was a bit difficult to concentrate, with the crowd cheering every ball when the veteran was batting out in the middle.
“It was a very good partnership. Initially, it was very difficult for me to concentrate because there was a lot of noise from the stands and I had just come in and hadn’t faced any balls. It was really difficult, but Tendulkar told me to just stay focused. Once I played a few balls it was easy for me to bat then,” Pujara said on Friday.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar and Cheteshwar Pujara
'He was determined to score as he might have been in his first game'
“I think he is always in form and the way he bats, it is always a pleasure to watch. Another thing is that he was also guiding me through whenever I was losing my concentration. He used to come to me and tell me ‘now you have to focus a little bit more’. It is always nice to play with him and I had made my debut with him and I had a partnership with him. It is really a good feeling for me,” he added.
The Saurashtra batsman revealed that Tendulkar look very determined.
“It was disappointing, but the way he batted, I think, it was really amazing to see him score those runs. I always feel that he is always determined to score; he is always as determined as he might have been in his first game. There are many things to learn from Sachin Paaji,” he said.
Pujara also paid rich tribute to Tendulkar for the way he handled the pressure of expectation in his farewell Test match, in front of his home fans.
“It is not easy to stay calm when you are playing your last game. I think there were a lot of expectations from him since he was playing in Mumbai and it was his last Test match. But the way he batted it is incredible and only he can do it I guess,” he said.
The right-hander also observed that Tendulkar worked a lot harder in the nets in this series so he could score a lot of runs in the two matches.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his half-century on Friday
'His tips in the nets helped me a bit today'
“His preparation before the game, it is still the same. I can say he might have worked harder in the nets to be successful in this Test match. His preparation was good enough and he has prepared more to be successful in these two Test matches,” said Pujara.
The 25-year-old said that Tendulkar’s advice with regards to his batting technique in the nets also proved of great help.
“I was not playing well in the nets to the balls going through me. I was struggling against the out-swingers in the nets a bit, so he told me that my right shoulder is opening up a bit and I should be a bit side-on. He also told me to have a little bigger stride and I tried doing it once I finished my nets, and it helped.
But I think, initially, as I said earlier, it was difficult to concentrate and keep all these things in mind, so I tried working it out in the nets and I think it helped me a bit,” he said.
Despite him and Rohit hitting centuries, Pujara is convinced that Tendulkar’s innings was the best in the Indian batting effort, considering the amount of pressure he was under.
“I would say Sachin’s innings was the best because he was playing his last game and it is not easy to focus and concentrate. There is a lot of nervousness and the way crowd was supporting, it was good on the crowd’s part, but when you are in the middle it is difficult to concentrate so I would rate Sachin’s innings as the best,” he said.
Image: Cheteshwar Pujara