Whenever I walk in to bat against Australia, I never get easy runs – Cheteshwar Pujara
Ahead of his 100th Test match in Delhi against Australia, India’s No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, the 13th Indian to get to the milestone, remembered the most absolute testing knocks and bowlers he has encountered in his 13-year career while Pujara preferred to name a few knocks that were close to him, four of which have happened against Australia.
Ahead of his 100th Test match in Delhi against Australia, India’s No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, the 13th Indian to get to the milestone, remembered the most absolute testing knocks and bowlers he has encountered in his 13-year career.
Without adhering to just a couple, Pujara preferred to name a few knocks that were close to him, four of which have happened against Australia.
“The one is when I made my debut and scored 72. I thought that it was one of the most important innings in my career because I was very nervous. If I hadn’t scored those runs, maybe I might not have played international cricket after that. That inning was special. Moving on from there, the 92 against Australia at the Chinnaswamy Stadium is one of my favorites. Apart from that, my first overseas 100 against South Africa, I think it was Jo’burg in the second innings, 123 at Adelaide, and the last Test match at the Gabba, where I got hit on the body a few times. These are my special innings,”recalled Pujara.
Pujara discussed what makes them difficult by focusing a little more on the common factor that connects the majority of those innings – Australia.
“They have a good fighting spirit, no matter the situation of the game. They will always challenge you as an opponent,”said Pujara.
“Whenever I walk in to bat against Australia, I never get easy runs. I always have to work my way out to get runs, I’ve to work hard to get my runs. And, they play as a unit, they’re always vocal so there’s a little bit of banter and chat going on. Sometimes, that motivates me a bit more. I am not someone who will try to talk back to them, but the best thing I can do is to score runs and let the bat do the talking. They’ve been a challenging opposition and I’ve had a bit of success, but yes, we always enjoy this challenge,”he added.
Pujara named Australia as one of the three test sides where he had faced the most difficult opponents.
“Australia is always a tough opposition against whom we have played some very good series. England has been a challenging opponent, even New Zealand. We have done well against all of them because as a team when someone challenges us, we know the potential we have in the team so people are willing to fight back when there is a challenge in front of them. We take on those challenges, and we know that if we want to be the number one Test side in the world, then we have to fight it out,”said Pujara.
Going into the one-on-one battles, Pujara had four pacers on his list, he’s faced off against each of them in some memorable games.
“Personally, as for challenging bowlers, it would be Jimmy Anderson when we are playing in English conditions. Apart from that, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel when I was facing them in 2011 in South Africa, was tough. That was my first overseas tour and I was struggling a bit, and I spoke to Rahul Bhai about it, he was playing at the time, and he gave a few tips that I worked on my game. Apart from that, Pat Cummins has been one of the most challenging bowlers to face in Australian conditions,”he said.
Besides the difficulties on the field, Pujara’s other big problem to overcome is being a one-format specialist and staying aware of long breaks between matches. He offered a little bit of his mindspace during those times, and how he rode the course.
“If you look at the current schedule, on average we play about nine Tests. When you play one series and go back home, unless you’re playing first-class cricket, you’re not in touch with the game. Sometimes you’re mostly just sitting at home and watching cricket on the television. That’s the most important part for a Test cricketer, to keep challenging yourself, to keep training, and keep practicing even though you’re not looking forward to any series in one or two months, and I felt during Covid time when we didn’t have first-class cricket, that was the most challenging time being a Test cricketer. I was just sitting at home, practicing, and just waiting for some Tests to happen. A Test cricketer needs to keep playing first-class cricket. It is challenging to be a one-format player but you need to motivate yourself, keep practicing and be ready whenever Test matches are coming,”explained Pujara.
Being an expert also meant that he desired the lone ICC trophy on offer for that, having finished runner-up once already.
India is in with a chance to qualify for the final for the second time and Pujara, while acknowledging the past and the people who played a significant role in his career, had his eyes firmly set on it.
“My father has played a very important role in my cricketing career. He’s someone who has coached me from the time I was a child. He is very excited and he is going to be here tomorrow. Even my wife has been very supportive. In a cricketer’s life, family support is very important. I am very thankful to my family and my friends. There’s a lot to achieve but I am satisfied. I am glad to be playing my 100th Test, but at the same time, we are in the middle of an important series so hopefully, we win this Test and move on and win another Test which will ensure we qualify for the WTC Finals. Yes, my dream is to win that WTC Final for the Indian team. Hopefully, once we qualify, we’ll look towards that.”