Watch out, guys! This is what England skipper Alastair Cook would be saying to his teammates after Cheteshwar Pujara scored his second consecutive second-innings double century yesterday.
Pujara, who troubled the England bowlers during the recent Test series in India, warmed up for his ODI debut in an exuberant style by slamming an unbeaten 261 in just 275 balls against Karnataka in Rajkot yesterday.
To ensure his state team advanced to the Ranji Trophy semi-finals, Pujara destroyed a listless Karnataka’s attack, slamming 40 fours and a six in his 344-minute knock.
On Sunday, Sandeep Patil’s national selection committee picked Pujara in the one-day team for the first three-ODIs against England. The right-hander’s essential role will be to add stability to the wobbly batting line-up.
The team think-tank may well hand Pujara his ODI cap in the first match against England which will be played tomorrow on his home venue — the newly-built Saurashtra Cricket Association in Khanderi.
The timing of his double ton couldn’t have been better, said Pujara’s father Arvind, his first coach. “It couldn’t have come at a better time. It will certainly do a his confidence a lot of good. Going into any tournament with runs always helps. I am sure Chintu (as he is affectionately called) will go in with a good mindset,” Pujara Sr told MiD DAY from Rajkot.
Pujara Sr revealed that his son viewed the Ranji tie as good preparation for the ODI series. “He was quite upset after being dismissed for 37 in the first innings so he wanted to spend time at the crease in the second innings and get as much practice as he could for the England series.
“Playing his first ODI at home would be ideal as he knows the conditions very well as compared to others,” said Pujara’s father, who also played first-class cricket for Saurashtra.
Saurashtra’s seasoned player and Pujara’s senior teammate Sitanshu Kotak said: “This is the right time for him to debut in ODIs. He has been scoring heavily on the domestic circuit and also did well during the Test series. He has enough experience to succeed in any format. He is a matured cricketer and reads the game well,” said Kotak.
Pujara is generally known to bide his time at the crease, but the last few innings showed his aggressive side. In the last Ranji game against Madhya Pradesh, Pujara (203 not out) raced to his final 50 in just 17 balls. “He has a variety of shots. His confidence is high too.
“He can accelerate at will. We wanted to declare after his double hundred, so that is why he played that way. I don’t think it was done with a focus on the one-dayers. That’s his specialty — he can change his game according to the situation,” Kotak signed off.