Wiser after learning from his mistakes, India’s specialist Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara has promised to unleash an improved version of himself in what is expected to be a hard-fought series against Australia next month.
“I would look to continue the same form. Probably try and do even better than whatever I did against New Zealand and England. I have learnt from the mistakes which I did during these series and continue the good things which I have done in the previous two series,” Pujara told reporters here talking about the four-Test series that will get underway from February 23.
“Australia will be obviously challenging but we are playing as a team (and) have done well against New Zealand and England, particularly England was a tough team to beat, and we were playing a five Test match series, which is always tough. So the way we played in the last year, we should continue doing the same thing.
“To start with a one-off Test match against Bangladesh and then the following series against Australia,” the right-handed batsman added.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the 13th D Y Patil Twenty20 Cup in neighbouring Navi Mumbai where he plays for Indian Oil.
Asked to rate his performance in the last few months, Pujara said expectation from him is always a three-figure knock.
“It depends a lot (on the mindset). And I don’t think there was anything wrong with my technique or strike rate when I didn’t perform to the potential,” he said.
“Probably people have high expectations because I am known to score double hundreds. So when I score a 50 or 80 runs, no one notices it, sometimes even the 80 runs is helpful for the team’s success. But people always expect me to sore big runs, hundreds or double hundreds,” said Pujara, who has played 43 Tests for India.
“So 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, so both the Test series went well. Even the shorter format of this game, I did well in a few T20 games here and whatever games I have played this year, I have performed well. I am happy with the way things are going,” he added.
India thrashed England 4-0 the five-Test series last year. Asked how difficult it was to beat England, Pujara said that from a player’s perspective, it was a challenging series.
“They (England) started off well in Rajkot, we made a very good comeback and then from second Test match onwards we were in command. Though they were playing good cricket, we played better cricket than them and that was the reason (why) we were successful,” he said.
“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,” added the Saurashtra player.
The stylish batsman also heaped praised on India skipper and his teammate Virat Kohli, saying he has been leading from the front.
“I don’t want to discuss much about his captaincy. But his fitness, the kind of fitness he has and the way he performs as a captain, he leads from the front. His fielding is remarkable, he excels in all the aspects of his game and he works hard, we have a captain who is leading from the front,” Pujara said.
Pujara was also effusive in his praise for India A and Under-19 coach Rahul Dravid, calling him a guiding light.
“When I was out of form and worked with him (Dravid), he had few thoughts about how I can improve and he told me that there is nothing wrong with your technique and your game. So he has been encouraging young players like me and his guidance has always been helpful for all young players,” he said
Pujara said he is working on his shots in the T20 format as well.
“Basically its always about expressing yourself. It’s (about) understanding the format and playing some shots, which I have already started for which I have already got success,” Puajra said when asked how he is working on his game in the shortest format.
“I have also worked on my game to suit this particular format (T20), because it is just about shifting your gears, shifting it from first ball onwards, because if there is a ball to hit for a six, even if it’s the first ball, you have to hit it.
“So that is what my mindset is now and I have played few shots in the nets. I have worked on a few shots which is definitely going to help me in the shorter format of the game. So I have tried that in the nets and when I am trying to execute the same shots in the match, it is happening,” he added.