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'I'm confident of making a comeback in the Test side'

Last updated on: June 1, 2011 10:06 IST

Image: Cheteshwar Pujara

Cheteshwar Pujara, one of the rising stars of Indian cricket, has had a mixed bag of success and failure, luck and misfortune, in his all-too-brief international career.

He made an impressive Test debut against Australia at home late last year but lost his place in the playing eleven in the series versus New Zealand because of the return of the fit-again senior players.

The selectors could not ignore him for the tour of South Africa, where he featured in two of the three Tests without doing anything remarkable. Unfortunately, he continues to face hurdles when it comes to playing Test cricket.

No, not that he lacks in talent, technique and temperament. Far from it. He has them in abundance, but seems to have no luck with injuries.

He injured his knee during Kolkata Knight Riders' warm-up match in the lead-up to the IPL in South Africa in 2009 and was out of action for several months. In the just-concluded IPL IV, he sustained a knee injury while fielding for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Kochi Tuskers Kerala. The result: he missed the West Indies tour.

Recuperating at his home in Rajkot, Pujara talks to Haresh Pandya about his time with the Test team in South Africa, the sadness of missing out on the West Indies tour because of injury and MS Dhoni's leadership, among other cricket matters.

What's the nature of your injury? Is it very serious? How long will it take you to recover fully?

I'm sorry, I can't say anything about my injury. I'm not allowed to. I've been undergoing treatment at the National Cricket Academy and only the official physio can throw light on my injury.

'I'd have loved to go to the West Indies'

Image: Cheteshwar Pujara

You missed a major part of IPL IV, and now a place in the West Indies-bound team. How do you feel?

Obviously, I feel very sad. I'd have loved to go to the West Indies.

But you can't help it. Injuries are part and parcel of a sportsman's life. Yes, I was injured on the eve of the IPL in 2009, too, while fielding.

You've to put in 100 per cent effort whether you're fielding, batting or bowling. It shows you aren't selfish and you don't lack in commitment.

Don't these injuries disappoint you, frustrate you?

Why should they? As I said, no sportsman can escape from injuries. He can take precautions, but you never know. Injuries just occur.

My injury in 2009 was more serious. But instead of disappointing me, it made me more determined to regain full fitness and come back on the field strongly. Which I actually did, of course.

I'm sure I'll make full recovery in due course of time and I'm looking forward to the next domestic season. 

'I've found all senior cricketers very encouraging'

Image: Cheteshwar Pujara

How was the experience playing top class cricket in South Africa?

It was really very challenging. You're truly tested. Compared to the Indian wickets, the pitches in South Africa are lively, bouncy and conducive to fast bowling.

Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, to name only two, were outstanding, and it wasn't easy to bat against them on such wickets.

Of course, I wasn't a top performer. But I think I did reasonably well against them in my own humble way. I learnt a lot on the South African tour.

How is your rapport with your Indian teammates? In other words, how was the approach of senior Indian players towards a youngster like you?

I enjoy a very good, healthy rapport with all my teammates, not just the members of Team India. I've found all the senior Indian cricketers very encouraging and supportive.

They're always ready to help you, to guide you in any way they can, be it Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VV S Laxman or any other senior cricketer. Why, even there is a very nice camaraderie among younger players, too.

'MS Dhoni is a truly great captain'

Image: Cheteshwar Pujara

What about Mahendra Singh Dhoni?

Oh, he is very, very encouraging. He has full confidence in his players' abilities. He always looks at the brighter, positive sides of things and this is what he tells his players, too, when they fail or don't do as expected.

Doubtless, he is a truly great captain. I'm too small to make any comment on his captaincy. But his record is there for all to see.

How did you find Gary Kirsten as a coach?

Very good! Though I didn't play much under him, I found him to be very knowledgeable. He knew how to get the best out his players.

Having played a lot of cricket, he knew very well what players go through.

So his approach was a bit more friendly and sympathetic, and not that of a hard taskmaster.

'I am capable of handling any sort of pressure'

Image: Cheteshwar Pujara

You were seen getting out on small scores in domestic cricket after the South African jaunt. Did you try and figure out why?

It was one of those things. It was either due to some really good balls or just because I had to take extra risk in scoring quick runs.

But I didn't play many matches. And my 20s and 30s in the nick of time were probably not noticed by those used to seeing me playing big innings! But I take it as a compliment that people know me as a big-innings player.

Wasn't your seeming failure in converting such scores into big innings because of some sort of pressure? Your reputation is such that people expect a big score from you each time you go to the wicket. How do you handle pressure of the weight of expectations?

As a professional cricketer I am capable of handling any sort of pressure. I've to.

And I've proved that more often than not. Whether you're young or old, you've got to be mentally tough in today's highly demanding cricket.

Otherwise, you can't survive. You've got to handle different kinds of pressures on and off the field.

'My best is obviously yet to come'

Image: Cheteshwar Pujara

But for the unfortunate injury, we would surely have seen some exciting cameos from your blade in IPL IV. From what you were labelled by some as a solid longer version batsman, how did you make the successful transition to the slam-bang Twenty20 cricket?

Whether you're a batsman or a bowler, you've to be able to play all types of cricket in any situation, against any team and anywhere in the world. The sooner you realise this, the better. Twenty20 cricket is a reality now and a player has to adjust his game befitting its nature.

I had to make a little adjustment in my technique and approach. That's all. Whatever the nature of cricket, my approach at the wicket is always very positive and I love to play my shots.

How do you look at the future? Considering the fact that there are many talented players in the country dreaming to don national colours, how hopeful are you of making a comeback in the Indian team?

I think I've a lot of cricket to play. I've just started on the international cricket ladder and I've still a long way to go.

When I was injured in 2009, we're the No 1 team in the world. And I was able to make my Test debut on the strength of my talent and performance. We're still No 1.

And I'm confident of making a comeback in the Test side sooner than later. It shouldn't be difficult for me. My best is obviously yet to come. But, first of all, I want to recover from my latest injury and then start playing and scoring consistently well.