Pujara wants to open the innings in ODIs

Last Updated 03 April 2014, 14:21 IST

Looking to cement his place in India's One-day cricket team, batsman Cheteshwar Pujara today said that he would like to open the innings in the limited overs format.

"I would like to bat top of the order. I can't just say that I just would prefer to open the innings. It depends on the team's requirement. Given an opportunity, obviously I would prefer to open the innings but even batting at number three or four, it is not deep down the order," said Pujara.

"If I am batting one to four, I am happy doing that," he added. Asked about the adjustments he would have to bring to his game if he wanted to play in the ODIs, Pujara explained, "In ODIs, there is not a major change, especially with the two new balls, you still want to play proper cricketing shots initially. And then once the ball gets old, you can start accelerating.

"Being a top order batsman, I don't need to make too many adjustments in ODI format because there is a lot of movement. We all know there are two new balls and most of the matches are in overseas condition.

"Initially you want to bat like what you do in Test format and even when I am set in a Test match, my strike rate has improved a lot. Once I cross 50 runs, after that I start playing the shots. In ODIs maybe, you can't have so much of time but what I need to do is that the way I bat in the Test match after scoring a 50, I can just do the same thing when I go into bat," he explained.

Pujara, who will be representing Kings XI Punjab in the upcoming Indian Premier League, said he wanted to open the innings with his Punjab teammate Virender Sehwag as things would become easier for him with the hard-hitting veteran at the other end.

"Things will get easier for me if I am opening the innings with Virender Sehwag. He is the kind of a batsman who can change the game easily. If he gets going, he can score a 100 even in a T20 format. If I am opening the innings with him, it will be a very good experience and things will become easier for me," he said.

Pujara is also working on his bowling, but he insisted that was not to earn a place in the ODIs. "I don't think I have started bowling to get into the ODI side because my batting is good enough and even I have improved my fielding. Bowling is not a thing that will get me an opportunity into the playing XI but it is just one option that I want to add in my game," he said.

The Rajkot-born player was snapped up by Kings XI Punjab from Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs 1.9 crore and Pujara said he was hopeful of getting more opportunities with the new franchise.

"When you have big players like Chris Gayle and Virat (Kohli) and all who are doing really well (in RCB), then youngsters like me who are coming up and who haven't played enough ODIs or T20s, then it is difficult to get into the (playing) 11. With a team like Kings XI Punjab, I might get more opportunities to play in the playing XI. So I am hopeful.

"Preparation is good so far. I was with the Indian team for the ODI side as well so I had a chat with the coach and the management on how to go about ODIs and how to improve as an ODI and T20 player. I don't want to disclose the particular discussion but so far it is up to the mark," he said.

The Punjab team boasts of the likes of Sehwag, Mitchell Johnson, and Pujara thinks it is a good team but the players need to execute well.

"It is a new team. Looks like a very good team on paper, so we will have to execute well. Mitchell Johnson is there, Glenn Maxwell is there, so many other players like Viru Pa (Sehwag) is there. There are quite a few good players but it is important that as a unit we do well.

"We have got a very good side as I said but when you have big names, you still have to execute things on the field, so that is the most important thing. We have got a camp coming up, so we will have time before the tournament starts. Initially it (the camp) will be in Chandigarh and then we will have a few days of practice at Dubai also," he said.

The 26-year old opened the innings for Saurashtra in the ongoing West Zone T20 league matches and said it was a good practice ahead of the IPL. "I think before IPL, it is good for the preparation. The wickets are challenging. So it is not easy to score runs," he told reporters here after the match.

"Talking about T20, you don't get time to set. You have to be ready to hit the four even if it is the first ball. You have to be innovative, you have to disturb the bowlers if they are trying to bowl a yorker. I was doing that yesterday when Zaheer Khan was bowling. I was just trying to walk in and then try to get a full toss. Those are the things I have worked on in the nets and it was paying off yesterday.

"I still need to work on it so that I can get used to it. But there are a few adjustments which you need to make in a T20 format and I always feel in T20 format you need to be switched on from the first ball because it is just 120 balls for the entire team," he explained.

Asked to elaborate on his meeting with the former India skipper Rahul Dravid, Pujara said, "I had a chance to meet him and I had a word with him. It was a very good interaction.

"I had an opportunity to sit with him for half an hour and have a chat. I can't tell all the things which he told me but he was very positive about me performing well in the ODIs. He never had any doubt that I can't be successful in ODIs, seeing my Test match performance. I got so many advice, which will be helpful for me in future."

India will tour England in July for a five-Test series and Pujara said, "I can't talk much about the future tours as per the BCCI guidelines. But obviously it will be an important tour for the team. Obviously all the players are looking forward to it because whenever you go abroad there are quite a few challenges but as a cricketer you like challenges in your life. You just don't want a cake walk in your life.

"If you want to grow as a good cricketer or as a good player then obviously challenging conditions are the ones where you look to perform. After playing a couple of overseas tour like South Africa, New Zealand, I feel those are the challenging conditions. But if you have a good technique then you can survive there," he said.

Pujara wasn't among the runs against New Zealand in Test matches in February and he said, "I thought that I was batting really well in almost all the innings. Just one inning that I played a bad shot. It was in the first Test match in the first innings I played a drive shot to a wide ball which was my mistake, apart from that I got couple of decent balls.

"I got 20 odd runs and I faced more than 50 balls. Otherwise looking at it, I was comfortable playing over there it was just that when I was set, still I got out. Those were the things that I thought that they were couple of good balls where I still could have defended or I still could have got away with it, which I couldn't. I will still work on it and maybe with more experience, I will get better.

(Published 03 April 2014, 14:21 IST)

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