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Exclusive! Cheteshwar is not normal says his dad

January 09, 2019 12:50 IST

When Cheteshwar Pujara was scoring a splendid 193 in Sydney, his father was undergoing cardiac surgery in a Mumbai hospital.
Not once did he let it be known to the world what was going inside him when he batted at the SCG.
'People react to situations, get distracted, but he doesn't, because deep inside he is focussed on his goals and he is at peace and that is down to his spiritual nature.'
Arvind Pujara, the master batsman's dad, has been praised for instilling the right values in his only child, but he tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian that it was his late wife Reena who is responsible for Cheteshwar's success.

Cheteshwar Pujara

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara scored 521 runs in the Australia Test series, hitting three centuries. Photograph: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

It seems, of all the time he had in Australia, Cheteshwar Pujara spent the most time at the batting crease.

He was at the wicket for as many as 1,867 minutes, equal to nearly 31 hours.

Not only did he score 521 runs in the four Tests, he stayed at the wicket for 1,258 deliveries.

For Australia, there was no getting past Cheteshwar Pujara.

 

In the T20 era, it is rare to see a batsman of the likes of Pujara who can just force the opposition into submission with his gritty, never-say-die, approach, without ever using the bat in anger.

Pujara's marathon vigils at the crease required tremendous self-belief and huge reserves of concentration, something which many attribute to his simple lifestyle and his modest upbringing.

His father Arvind Pujara has been much praised for instilling the right values in his only child, but he says it was his late mother Reena who is majorly responsible for his son's success.

"Entire world is praising Cheteshwar and everybody has been amazed with his powers of concentration. But let me tell you, I have not taught him this thing; this was taught to him by his mother," says Arvind over the phone.

"My role is limited to Cheteshwar's success as a batsman. I have taught him the skills, like playing on the front foot or back foot, the more technical side of things."

"But important things like concentration, having a balanced mind, staying calm at all times, all these important things he learnt from his mother," says the father.

"His character is a gift from his mother. I have no role in it even though people credit me for it because nobody knows about my wife. I have taught him only cricket," Arvind tells Rediff.com.

Cheteshwar Pujara

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara with his father Arvind. Photograph: Kind courtesy Cheteshwar Pujara/Twitter

Arvind, 68, was undergoing a cardiac procedure at a Mumbai hospital when his son scored 193 in the Sydney Test. It was the only time that the 68 year old, who is his son's only coach since childhood, missed out on watching him bat.

"Yes, it was the first time I missed his batting, but I did see it later in the highlights. But it is a completely different experience watching the match live on TV as compared to the highlights," he adds.

Reena's death in 2006, Arvind reveals, had a major impact on their young son and he became more determined to live his mother's dream and become a top cricketer.

"His mother's death was a turning point for him. He had just come back from a match when he found out. He didn't cry while I was crying like a child. That doesn't mean he didn't have any feeling, but he was strong enough to overcome the tragedy," Arvind remembers.

"He has a lot of faith in God and he believed that if it was God's will, nothing could be done to stop it," Arvind recalls.

Five days after his mother's death, the family convinced Cheteshwar to play an Under-19 game h for Saurashtra in Mumbai.

"A lot of people were coming to meet the family at that time and the atmosphere of the house was not changing. On the fifth day, we made him understand that he had to go and play the Under-19 match."

"We all spoke to him and told him: 'What would your mother want if she was alive today? She would have definitely wanted you to go out and play. Isn't it?' That is how we managed to convince him to play a match on the fifth day after his mother's death."

Arvind, who represented Saurashtra in domestic cricket, believes the family's guru in Rajkot, Haricharan Dasji Maharaj, also played a key role in helping the youngster cope with the unspeakable tragedy -- the loss of his beloved mother.

"On the 12th day we had the shradhh function for his mother where he spoke to our Guruji for one hour and after that his life changed. I don't know what they spoke, but it changed him completely."

"He told me that Guruji told him that 'When mother was there, she used to take care of everything, but now that she is not there, you have to do everything yourself. If you want to play cricket, you have to eat on time, sleep on time, everything you should do it yourself, you have to take more responsibility'."

That cricket was his destiny was predicted by his mother Reena who believed that her son would play for India.

"He was very close to his mother. She was more spiritual than Cheteshwar, we never realised it. She was very courageous, she taught us how to live when Cheteshwar was small, when we didn't have enough money for our daily living."

"Even then, his mother was very confident that Cheteshwar would become a top cricketer in India and nothing would come in his way. This was way back, when he was only eight years old," Arvind remembers.

One reason why Pujara has been so successful in Tests, why he plays such long knocks is because his focus is unwavering. The bowlers may sledge him or taunt him, but he will never react, that is because he lives in his own world, his father points out.

"People react to situations, get distracted, but he doesn't, because deep inside he is focussed on his goals and he is at peace and that is down to his spiritual nature," says his father.

"He lives in his own world and he doesn't worry about what is happening on the outside. How he became so focussed and disciplined even I don't know, maybe it is because of his mother and his Guruji."

"I would say he is not a normal human being, he is completely spiritual. It is difficult for normal people like us to study him. I am his father, so I come to know a little bit, but in a match you will never know what is going on inside him," Arvind reveals.

Cheteshwar, Arvind says, rarely gets angry or excited. He loves to keep life simple.

"There are two aspects in our lives -- love and hate. Both these things destroy a person's life if they are in excess, hence you must have a balance between the two. He has this quality that he never has any feeling of hatred towards anyone which helps him live in peace."

"Right from childhood he has never harboured any hatred or anger, maybe he does. but in a positive way. Like if he is dropped, he will say to himself, 'Let me hit a century in the next match and make them select me'."

"He gets angry some times when he gets out, he also feels the pressure at times, he is a human being, after all. He is not God. But he never gets excited too much by anything."

"He has never chased money or publicity, he is not that kind of human being. He is a spiritual person, that is his real character."

Cheteshwar Pujara

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates scoring a century during the Sydney Test. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

When his father was undergoing treatment in hospital, Pujara kept the focus on the task on hand, which was to win the Test series for India in Australia.

He was in constant touch with his wife Puja and the doctors and scored a splendid 193 while his father underwent surgery.

Not once did he let it be known to the world what was going inside him when he batted in Sydney.

"He is that kind of person who will only focus on the task on hand. He is more intelligent than he looks, and it is not that I am saying this because he is my son," says Arvind.

Cheteshwar's success, Arvind asserts, is all down to the hard work he has put in over the years, at practice, in junior cricket, and in domestic cricket for Saurashtra.

"He has worked hard to get where he is now. People don't know he has scored 5,000 runs in junior cricket at the Under-19 level and then you see his records in Ranji Trophy, in first class cricket and then at the Test level."

"He has played on some rankers against the spinners in domestic cricket and all this experience has helped him. Overall, his hard work has paid off."

"If you calculate the number of hours he has batted since he took up cricket, it would be such a huge number. Imagine, he started playing cricket at age of eight, so think how many deliveries he must have played till now."

India do not have any Tests for the next six months with ODIs in Australia and New Zealand followed by the IPL and the World Cup. But Cheteshwar Pujara -- Man of the Series in Australia -- likes to keep himself busy.

He won't sit back and relax, he will start off playing the Ranji Trophy on his return to India, followed by a stint in English county cricket -- all this with the aim of further improving his batting.

"He will come back and play the Ranji Trophy for Saurashtra," says Arvind, "then he will go and play county cricket. He will do something or the other and keep himself busy."

Harish Kotian / Rediff.com
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