After having won the Man of the Match award in the first Test against England, Cheteshwar Pujara is the cynosure of all eyes and is talked about as an apt replacement for Rahul Dravid. But the new India No 3 batsman doesn’t want to be compared with The Wall. Pujara spoke to MiD DAY recently.
My real test
This is my real test against a balanced English team. They have the best team and attack. I missed a big opportunity in 2011 when I couldn’t tour to England and Australia due to injury. But the century against New Zealand boosted my confidence. I will try and keep this momentum going.
The challenge of facing Swann
England’s strength lies in its pace battery and Graeme Swann. To face him (Swann) is a challenge, but I also scored lots of runs in domestic cricket recently. I spent a lot of time in the nets and worked on some areas.
The tough times…
The injury period was tough to deal with. I made my debut in 2010, but due to injury I had to miss two important series in — England and Australia — where the team needed me. But it’s part of life. During that time I spent a much time in the nets at Rajkot and NCA and then got some matches where I batted well. Also, India A’s tour to WI was a boost.
Staying at the wicket, a challenge
Staying at the wicket for a long time is challenging. But I have played quite a few knocks of 200s, 300s in domestic cricket and now I know how to go about it. I try to play according to the merit of the ball; runs come automatically.
Self-confidence and temperament
To play big knocks consistently, you need to be self-confident. While batting, I don’t think too much and that is my big strength. Lot of players think too much and commit silly mistakes. When I am in the middle, I just get involved completely and the temperament automatically develops. Sometimes I talk to myself.
How I get my strength…
I get all positive energy from God. Be it a junior or senior tournament, I always keep God’s picture on my table. I always perform puja in the morning irrespective of whether I’m playing or not. I get lot of positive vibes from there and it helps at each and every stage of life.
At the crease with Sachin…
When I am with Sachin paaji at the crease, I feel like I am in the nets.
After each and every ball, we discuss with each other. When I play a good shot, he says, ‘keep it up’. It’s really a different experience to bat with someone like him.
Don’t compare me with Dravid
There’s no comparison with God and his devotee. To achieve what Dravid has, one has to struggle a lot and must have that consistency.
Also one needs to mature a lot to play like him. To stay at the wicket and win so many matches is not easy at all. Toughness is the key. I learnt a lot from Rahulbhai and please don’t compare me with him.
Team India’s mission
Whitewash is the mission for this series. All of us know what we want.
That’s why everyone played Ranji Trophy matches to prepare for the series. If our strategy is right, we will achieve our target easily.
(This interview was conducted before the Test series)