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My batting is always based on conditions: Cheteshwar Pujara

A true soldier for India at No.3, Pujara will not be there when India face England in Rajkot, his home turf.

Out of national reckoning after 103 Tests, the general opinion is that there may not be a comeback in store for Cheteshwar Pujara. But Indian Test cricket’s most trusted batting face of the past decade refuses to give up. He continues to go through the grind in Ranji Trophy for Saurashtra. Adding more shots, he has already tallied 673 runs at an average of 74.77 this season. The passion to score drives him, he says in this interview. Excerpts…

Cheteshwar Pujara plays a shot during the third day of the Ranji Trophy cricket match between Saurashtra and Vidarbha(PTI)

How have you approached this Ranji season after being dropped from the Indian team?

By playing a competitive club match in Mumbai just before the Ranji season. I just love this game. I am passionate about it. I got a hundred in that match against Dhawal Kulkarni, Sandeep Sharma, Shams Mulani and Shivam Dube. My club team was weaker against the opposition. So, I wanted to ensure I put my best foot forward and we won the match.

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I am saying this because that’s exactly why I play for Saurashtra. I want us to qualify for the Ranji knockouts. It’s about having the same passion whether it is Saurashtra, Sussex or my club. Obviously, there is different pride playing for the country. But you keep continuing the hard work. Try and follow the same routine.

Does it get tougher, having seen the peak of international success?

For a cricketer, new peaks keep coming. It’s about working on your game, refining it. For the last one-and-half years, I have been working on my sweep shots, my reverse sweep as well as lofted shots. There are times in Ranji Trophy when you encounter tough pitches, where teams are bowled out for 150-200 and the matches finish in two-and-half days. That’s when it doesn’t matter whether you have played 100 Tests or have 10,000 Test runs, you are bound to get out. That’s when you need some unorthodox shots. And it’s paying off. I have seen results for me this season on difficult pitches.

Do you agree that’s how one has to play now, the pace of long-format cricket is also changing?

It is only for rank turners. I have seen a little bit of recent Test cricket. On a normal Indian track, you don’t need the fancy shots. There are certain pitches where even if you are the best batter in the world, you are bound to get out at some point. That’s when you need them.

You believe there is more cricket left in you?

Definitely. The way I have been batting and keeping up with my fitness, I am very confident. Scoring runs in Ranji Trophy is not a piece of cake, even though people may want to say it. There is no DRS and decisions don’t always go your way. To keep scoring one has to work hard and be at the top of the game. I hope I will be able to continue to contribute at whichever level I get an opportunity.

Does your perspective change when the age factor comes in while talking about future?

I genuinely feel that age is just a number (he just turned 36). You have the example of James Anderson who is bowling fast at 41 and is still England’s best bowler. Novak Djokovic recently said that 35 is the new 25. Dynamics of the game is changing and players are getting fitter. I don’t think age is any longer a barrier. Particularly for players who play only one format, which I think has helped me immensely. If I am playing only Tests, I can maintain my body better. You just have to keep working on fitness. That holds true even if you are a 25-year-old.

And you are proud of your innings-building game that has stood you in good stead…

I think it’s a perception. My batting is always based on conditions. On pitches in India that are good, I don’t take time to get to

50s. It’s only in England, for example, when the conditions demand that the new ball has to be respected. That’s the traditional way of playing Test cricket.

Now England is playing more attacking cricket, but that’s on certain pitches. Also, the Dukes ball doesn’t have the same movement now. Earlier, cricket in England was a lot different. It’s easy to say that the game is moving and people are playing a lot more shots. But the pitches allow that now. You can’t do that in South Africa. I need to understand my strength and that’s how it will help the team. It will help whoever is walking in to bat after me. When I score well, it would help the team. And in cricket, I believe it’s more important to win the game rather than think about how you play. If you are playing positively and bringing success to the team it’s fine. If not, there’s no point in saying proudly that we are playing positively. There are many ways of playing the game.


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