Ranji Trophy: Cheteshwar Pujara scores 12th first-class double ton, most by an Indian
Saurashtra's Cheteshwar, who scored his 12th first-class double ton against Jharkhand to go past Vijay Merchant's tally, wants to use effort as launch pad for Sri Lanka Test series
A Gujarati has broken another Gujarati's long-standing important record. And how. India's premier Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara made his 12th double century (a polished 204 in 566 minutes and 355 balls with 28 fours) in first-class cricket at the Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground in Rajkot yesterday, for Saurashtra against Jharkhand, to surpass the legendary Vijay Merchant, a Gujarati who played for Mumbai and India. Merchant had 11 scores of 200-plus to his credit. Now, only Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, affectionately called Ranji, is the only Indian ahead of Pujara with 14 double hundreds, although it must be emphasised that the prince of the erstwhile state of Nawanagar played all his first-class cricket for Sussex and England.
Saurashtra's Cheteshwar Pujara. Pic/AFP
"I am very happy to have scored this double hundred just before the home Test series against Sri Lanka," a delighted Pujara said on the second day of the ongoing Ranji Trophy tie. "I am also glad to know that I have broken Vijay Merchant's record of 11 double hundreds in first-class cricket. I was not aware about this till last [Wednesday] evening, when I was unbeaten on 125, that I was on the verge of achieving something special. Of course, I am nowhere near good as Merchant, but it is a nice feeling that the record is in my name now."
Was he sure of scoring a double century, as he has never reached the landmark when he was unbeaten on a century overnight? "Obviously not. But I was hoping to play a long innings before the commencement of the Test series against Sri Lanka. A big first-class score before a major Test series does a world of good to your confidence," he said.
Pujara usually enters a Test series armed with a big hundred or two. Is it just a coincidence or a well-planned strategy? "As I said, I love to start a new Test series with a big first-class innings. But you cannot plan such things. It just happens. In this match against Jharkhand, we were 46 for 3 at one stage and then 134 for 4 batting first. So, I had to drop anchor and and stabilise the innings. When you stay at the wicket, runs start coming in automatically. Maybe you could say that pressure often brings out the best in me, whether it is a first-class game or a Test match," he explained.
Of Pujara's 12 double hundreds, three have come in the heavyweight division of cricket. Which of them does he cherish the most? "The closest to my heart is my double century (202) against Australia at Ranchi earlier this year. Considering everything, I was very happy and satisfied with that innings. Almost equally good was my double hundred (206 not out) against England at Ahmedabad in November 2012, when I was fairly new to Test cricket," he said. Asked whether he has set any goals for himself in the upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka, the master batsman said: "No, I have not. My goal has always been to score as many runs as I can for my team. I had a very good Test series in Sri Lanka a few months ago and, with this double hundred behind me, I want to capitalise on that and resume from where I left off, God willing."
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