Pujara notches another 'fifty'

Pujara notches another 'fifty'

Right-hander has overcome adversity to seal spot in the team

Pujara notches another 'fifty'
Cheteshwar Pujara will become the third Indian cricketer to make 50 appearances in the space of four Tests. While the Tamil Nadu duo of M Vijay and R Ashwin achieved these personal milestones in Ranchi (against Australia in March) and Galle (against Sri Lanka last week) respectively, the Saurashtra batsman will join the ranks in the second Test at SSC, Colombo, starting August 3.

From being touted the “next wall” of India, an obvious reference to Rahul Dravid, to getting relegated to benches and then to becoming an integral part of the team again, Pujara has come a long way in his eventful career. The right-hander shares his experiences.

 Excerpts:

Your thoughts ahead of 50th Test 
 
It has been a wonderful journey so far. When I started playing cricket, I thought that Test cricket was always something that I wanted to play. When I have an opportunity to represent the country in the 50th Test match, it will be a proud moment. The way things have shaped up so far, the career has been really good. There have been ups and downs but looking at the recent form, I will be looking forward to playing in the 50th Test match.

How difficult was it to cope with the phase when you were injured?

That was one of the most challenging times of my career where I was out for six months; with a first knee injury (left knee in 2009) and again in 2011 (right knee) I got injured. It took six months again. So overall I haven’t been able to play cricket for a year which was really tough for me. The reason was once you get injured you need to start scoring runs again, you need to get that rhythm again as your concentration goes down. Injury was the toughest part of my career but now I have come out of it and am working really hard on my fitness so that I don’t catch injuries anymore. Again, you can’t guarantee anything but as long as you work hard on your fitness, the chances of getting injured are less.

What happened in the West Indies (where he was not a first-choice) and what kind of change happened during the series?

I think there was a time when I was getting out in fifties and sixties. Overall, I was batting well. Even in West Indies, I got a fifty and in one of the innings I was run out for around 40. So, that was the phase where I was getting good starts and I wasn't able to convert into a big one. So I thought about it, I worked hard on my game going into practice. Just did what I knew. There was nothing wrong with my technique because after that I spoke to Rahul (Dravid) bhai, who just told me that you should continue the way you'v been playing. I just trusted my game, worked hard on it and I was just one innings away.

Can you elaborate on Dravid’s influence on your career?

I always grew up watching Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. Those were my favourite batsmen. I first met Rahul bhai in 2007 when India was playing in Rajkot. I had a chat with him and he was the Indian captain at that time. After that I have had many interactions with him and he is someone who has supported me a lot when it comes to cricket. When it comes to technique and experience, he is one of the best persons around. As a mentor, it is not just about technique. What he tells me is that there are different aspects of this game which you need to understand, and with his experience and with his guidance, I have learnt a lot.

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