Cheteshwar Pujara, India’s Test No.3, described the team’s recent five-Test series against England as a challenging one, but said the home team had found the wherewithal to pull through even when Alastair Cook’s men played well.
“They (England) started off well in Rajkot, we made a very good comeback and then from second Test match onwards we were in command,” Pujara told Press Trust of India on Wednesday (January 11), reflecting on India’s 4-0 win. “Though they were playing good cricket, we played better cricket than them and that was the reason we were successful. All in all we played as a team, our fast bowlers also picked up wickets when needed.”
Pujara, who is in Mumbai for the on going 13th DY Patil Twenty20 Cup where he represents Indian Oil, said he was keen on developing his short-format game too. He is already the leading run-getter in the tournament, having got 178 runs in three visits to the crease at a strike-rate of 127.14.
“Basically it’s always about expressing yourself. It’s understanding the format and playing some shots, which I have already started for which I have already got success,” said Pujara, who was among the most high-profile names to go unsold in the IPL auction of 2016. “It is just about shifting your gears, shifting it from first ball onwards, because if there is a ball to hit for a six, even if it’s the first ball, you have to hit it. So that is what my mindset is now, and I have played few shots in the nets. I have worked on a few shots which is definitely going to help me in the shorter format of the game.”
The Saurashtra batsman also revealed that when his Test form had dipped, a few sessions with Rahul Dravid, his predecessor at No.3 and one of the greatest batsmen in the history of the game, had helped him enormously. “When I was out of form and worked with him (Dravid), he had few thoughts about how I can improve and he told me that there is nothing wrong with your technique and your game. So he has been encouraging young players like me and his guidance has always been helpful for all young players,” he said. “It depends a lot on the mindset. And I don’t think there was anything wrong with my technique or strike rate when I didn’t perform to the potential.
“Probably people have high expectations because I am known to score double hundreds. So when I score a 50 or 80 runs, no one notices it, sometimes even the 80 runs is helpful for the team’s success. But people always expect me to sore big runs, hundreds or double hundreds. There was a time when I didn’t perform to what I was expected to but that phase is over now. I am back in form, I did well against New Zealand and England. Even the shorter format of this game, I did well in a few T20 games here and whatever games I have played this year, I have performed well. I am happy with the way things are going.”
Pujara was also effusive in his praise for Virat Kohli, saying the captain had set an example for the rest to follow. “The kind of fitness he has and the way he performs as a captain, he leads from the front. His fielding is remarkable, he excels in all the aspects of his game and he works hard, we have a captain who is leading from the front,” gushed Pujara.
His next international assignment will be India’s one-off Test against Bangladesh in February, followed by a four-Test series against Australia, and Pujara was looking forward to doing even better than he had in the first half of India’s season. Pujara aggregated 774 runs across eight Tests against New Zealand and England, with 373 at an average of 74.60 against New Zealand, and 401 at 50.12 against England.
“I would look to continue the same form. Probably try and do even better than whatever I did against New Zealand and England,” he said. “I have learnt from the mistakes which I did during these series and continue the good things which I have done in the previous two series.
“Australia will be obviously challenging but we are playing as a team (and) have done well against New Zealand and England, particularly England was a tough team to beat, and we were playing a five Test match series, which is always tough. So the way we played in the last year, we should continue doing the same thing.”