As the Twenty20 frenzy kicks off on April 8 with the eighth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Cheteshwar Pujara will be quietly polishing his batting skills away from the spotlight on the English county cricket circuit.
Cheteshwar Pujara cuts his way to 81 against Derbyshire, watched by wicketkeeper Harvey Hosein on July 2, 2014. Pic/Getty Images
With no IPL teams picking Pujara in the last auction, India's No 3 Test batsman was signed by Yorkshire County Cricket Club after Pakistan's Younis Khan pulled out. The opportunity seemed to have come at the right time, and ex-India Test opener Wasim Jaffer, who often goes to England to play league cricket during the off-season in India, wants the Saurashtra lad to make the most of his second opportunity with a county side.
Pujara had played for Derbyshire after India's 1-3 loss to England last year. "Playing county cricket is the best thing to have happened for Pujara. It is an ideal opportunity for him. I feel every young Indian cricketer should go and have stints in county cricket. It helps their game develop to a great extent. Pujara should look to concentrate on Test cricket. He should aim to play at least 100 Tests, which is quite possible for him," Jaffer told mid-day yesterday.
Wasim Jaffer and Amol Muzumdar
Domestic cricket stalwart Jaffer said the experience of playing in England can transform a cricketer. "A lot of great cricketers have gone to play county cricket. For example Zaheer Khan — his career changed after his stint for Worcestershire in 2006," Jaffer said. Zaheer regained his place in India's Test and ODI team and played a key role in India's Trent Bridge Test victory the following year.
Will get easier
"There are a lot of different surfaces that one gets to bat on in England. In April and May, the conditions are tough for batting. From June onwards they are a little better. You also face top quality bowlers which helps you develop your technique. Playing in England could be tiring, mentally and physically, because of the travel schedule. You are playing cricket almost five days a week for around four months but it also toughens you up as a cricketer," Jaffer said.
Amol Muzumdar, another great domestic batsman, who retired last year, had no doubts that Pujara will benefit from his county stint. "It is a completely professional set-up there. "As an overseas player, you are expected to score runs —that's why you are hired. Playing there will help Pujara tackle the seaming conditions better than others. "He has an excellent temperament, but I feel technique-wise it will tighten him up further. It will boost his confidence and personality," said Muzumdar.
Cheteshwar Pujara's Test average on the 2014 tour of England where he figured in all five Tests