Cheteshwar Pujara on Ravindra Jadeja Ranji Trophy absence: After all, it's a team game
Saurashtra star batsman Pujara puts all-rounder Jadeja's Ranji Trophy final absence due to India duty in perspective before taking on Bengal at Rajkot
Cheteshwar Pujara endured a torrid time in New Zealand where he could total only 100 runs in four innings across two Tests. Though he scored 54 and 24—which meant he got starts—in the second and final Test at Christchurch, he did not live up to expectations as the No.3 batsman.
That's why he will be itching to notch up a big score for Saurashtra against Bengal in the Ranji Trophy final which kicks off here today. India's red-ball specialist is known for his great appetite for runs and there is no bigger threat for Bengal from their opponents' batting department than Pujara whose team is led by Jaydev Unadkat.
Edited excerpts from a chat:
On Saurashtra's second consecutive Ranji Trophy final:
I cannot express how happy I was when I came to know that we were through to the final again. Last season, we lost. But this time, we shall be playing at home and that gives us a little advantage. However, it's always 50-50 in a final. Both teams have a chance to grab the trophy.
On Bengal, their Ranji Trophy final opponents:
They are a good side. With the inclusion of Wriddhiman Saha, a brilliant wicketkeeper and a fine batsman, they are stronger now. Their bowlers have done well and their batsmen, especially the lower order, are in good form. But so are we. I am more concerned with my team rather than the opponents and we shall do everything to win on a ground which we are more familiar with.
On the absence of Ravindra Jadeja, who is in the Indian team for the three ODIs against South Africa:
He is not only a great bowler but also a great batsman in this format. We can do nothing since he will be on national duty. Yes, it would have been an advantage for us if Jadeja was here but I must say that his presence alone would not have made us winners. It is a team game and we have to play better cricket than our opponents in the five days—that's what matters the most.
On Jaydev Unadkat's 65-wicket season:
It is great to see a fast bowler doing so well in a Ranji season. He had broken all records for fast bowling in the domestic season and should look forward to a call from the national selectors as well. We are all happy that he is playing for us and we don't have to face him.
On whether he is for the proposed four-day Test matches:
Never! Classical cricket is always played over five days. We are getting such interesting results like our semi-final against Gujarat due to the five-day format. What a match it was! It's a real test for the cricketers and their character.
On whether Ranji Trophy nowadays is different from those days when teams would win because of big first innings totals:
Definitely. It is producing more results and allowing more opportunities for bowlers to have a greater impact on the game. Basically, the nature of wickets has changed. True wickets always produce more interesting matches. You score hundreds and you get fifers. The fast bowlers get some advantage in the first three days while the spinners can thrive in the last two days. Again, the five-day format in the knockout helps here.
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