Sharjah: Cheteshwar Pujara, still finding his feet in the Twenty20 format, knows that he cannot be "flamboyant" like some of his Kings XI Punjab teammates in the IPL but the Indian says he is hoping carve a niche for himself by emulating South African legend Jacques Kallis.
Pujara, who opens the innings for Kings XI Punjab, has proven himself as a Test performer but is still adjusting to the much faster T20 cricket.
Cheteshwar Pujara. Pic/ AFP
"I cannot be flamboyant like (Glenn) Maxwell or (David) Miller, but I can always be a Jacques Kallis who plays proper cricketing shots, but can still score runs at a good strike rate. This is what I am looking for," Pujara told the IPL's official website. "The basics of cricket remain the same, irrespective of the format you play. You have to hit the cricket ball at the end of the day. I know how to play the cricket ball to the best of my abilities."
"My way of hitting may be classical where you try and time the ball. In the T20 format, you are required to hit it harder and find the gaps whenever possible. It is just about fine-tuning your game, rather than making changes in the way you play," he said, explaining his strategy to get into the T20 mould.
Kings XI Punjab have been in brilliant form this season, winning all three of the games they have played so far. The credit for that has mostly gone to Maxwell and Miller, both of whom have been rampaging with the bat. "Even before the IPL started, we always felt we had a very good team. On paper, the team was excellent but we had to execute things on the field. We are happy with the way things have gone so far. Three out of three is good and hope we can make five out of five in Dubai and then continue our momentum in India," he said.
"We have big-hitters like Virender Sehwag, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller and George Bailey, who can hit the ball long. My role in the team is to stick at one end. I intend to rotate the strike and hit the boundaries and go for the big shots as and when it is possible," Pujara added.
Asked about his experience of opening the batting with Sehwag, Pujara said, "I speak a lot to Viru paa regarding my game, not just in T20s, but also in the longer format. When I made my debut, he was the one who gave me my Test cap. "From that time onwards, he has been guiding me, not just in Tests, but he also tells me how to go about my game in ODIs and T20Is. I chat with him about the IPL and he has been guiding me really well."
On whether he is adjusting well to the T20s, Pujara said the process has been tough but smooth so far. "...in T20s, you have to be innovative and you don't get as much time to get settled and then start playing your shots. In my case with the Kings XI Punjab, I am opening the innings and I have to be ready to hit the ball from ball-one or the very first over. "The job becomes a bit difficult, but with time and few more matches, I will get better. I am getting better with each passing day. Today's innings (35 off 32 balls) was really good and I am really satisfied with the way I played. With big-hitters in the side, I can play my role well and play within my limitations," he said.
Pujara said it will take him some time to completely be at ease with the shortest format of the game. "Nothing can happen overnight. I will get better and better as time progresses because then I will get to know my strengths and weaknesses. I will know the areas I need to improve to get better in the T20 format. With time, I will be a good T20 player as well," he said.