Cheteshwar Pujara, the Indian Test No. 3, spoke to the media on the sidelines of the ongoing Dr DY Patil T20 Tournament in Nerul. Pujara, who is currently the leading run-scorer in the T20 league, spoke about a variety of issues such as Virat Kohli’s captaincy, mindset in the shorter formats, MS Dhoni as captain and a lot more.
As you are trying to make a mark in the shorter formats, what are you trying to improve exactly?
It’s always about expressing yourself — playing some shots from ball one. Now I can do that. It is about understanding this format and playing some shots, which I have started because of which I have got success. I have also worked on my game to suit this particular format because it is just about shifting your gears, even if it is the first ball. If the first ball is there to be hit for six, you have to hit it. That is what my mindset is now. I have worked on a few shots in the nets, which will help me in the shorter format of the game.
How much is that about mindset? In your prolific phases in Test cricket, your strike-rate was a lot better as compared to your tough run.
It depends a lot and I don’t think (was) wrong with my technique or strike-rate when I didn’t perform to potential. Probably people have high expectations because I am known to score double hundreds. So, when I get 50-80 runs, no one notices it, because sometimes even those could help the team’s success. But, people expect me to score big — 100s or 200s. There was a time when I didn’t perform to what I was expected to but that phase is over now. I am back in form — I did well against New Zealand and England. Both the Test series went well.
Having done well against England, looking to take it forward against Australia…
Yes, I am looking to continue the same form probably try and do even better than what I did against New Zealand and England — learn from the mistakes (I made) and continue the good things I did during those two series. Australia will be a challenging team but we are playing well as a team and we have done well against New Zealand and England. Particularly, England was a tough team to beat and we were playing a five-Test series, which is always tough. The way we played last year, we should continue doing that.
Against England, the series was won 4-0. That scoreline doesn’t necessarily reflect the challenge you faced as a team. We could say that looking at England’s fight in a few key moments, but your thoughts from a player’s perspective.
From the players’ perspective, I agree that it was a challenging series. They started off well in Rajkot but we made a very good comeback and from the second Test onwards we were in command. Though they were playing good cricket, we were playing better than them. That was the reason we were successful. Another reason is that the lower order contributed. Top order was giving good starts. All in all we played as a team, our fast bowlers also picked up wickets when needed and that was the reason we were successful,
Rahul Dravid said that a settled middle order is crucial for success overseas. Your thoughts on that?
I don’t know what his exact comments were but Rahul bhai is someone who has always guided me and if he has said something, it will obviously have a huge impact. He has been guiding the young players in the under-19s and India A. I can only talk about what I have heard. When I was out of form and I worked with him, he had a few thoughts about how I can improve and told me that there was nothing wrong with my technique. He has always been encouraging young players and his guidance has always been helpful.
How do you assess Virat as a Test captain?
He has been leading from the front! The points I want to mention is his fitness – the way he performs as a captain, he leads from the front and his fielding is remarkable. He excels in all the aspects of the game and works on all departments. We have a captain who leads from the front.
You favourite MS Dhoni moment as a captain…
There have been many but Lord’s victory one of the special moments I share with him. I made my debut in 2010 when he was captain. These two moments I really cherish. He has always been supportive and it was always a pleasure to play under his captaincy. I played Test cricket with him and when he left it in Australia, it was a tough call for him personally and for us as teammates, it was a difficult time for all of us.