WHY ISN’T Cheteshwar Pujara seen in advertisements? How does he handle it? It’s a question that has bemused cricket fans. And it came up again at the Express Adda Monday, where Pujara, the key force behind India claiming a Test series in Australia after 71 years, responded as he does on the field — with a straight bat.
“Being a (specialist) Test cricketer, I accept that there haven’t been many endorsements. I am someone who doesn’t go after endorsements. For me, the true thing is the love of this game. My father has taught me that I don’t just play for myself but for the entire country… Endorsements are a byproduct of playing this game,” he said.
“In my life, I am a simple man… if it (endorsements) comes, I will take it; if it doesn’t, I am not bothered about it. If I keep playing well and performing for the Indian cricket team, what I like is the appreciation from this country and from (the) cricketing fraternity, which is more than any endorsement I might get in my life,” Pujara said.
On the Australia tour, Pujara faced 1,258 balls, more than any other Indian in a Test series, and scored three hundreds. But what also stood out was how he nullified the threat posed by off-spinner Nathan Lyon. It now turns out, there’s a story to go with it. Referring to his wife Puja, Pujara said: “She told me once, ‘Who gets out to an off-spinner?’ That’s why I made sure I did well against Lyon!”
Given his low-key demeanour, Pujara was asked whether he ever celebrated wildly, at least in private. “There was immense joy but I am someone who is modest about things. Victories are something you should enjoy but there is still lots to play for. It is important not to get carried away — respect opponents, respect the game. It’s important for me to not do something stupid,” he said.
Pujara revealed that the Indian team was nervous before the start of the Australia series. “Whenever you play overseas, it’s not easy because the conditions are different. But we were confident in a way, that we played well in South Africa, played well in England (last year). We didn’t win (those) series but there were performances where we felt that we can win overseas. And that confidence was there… it was a great feeling to be part of history,” he said.
Asked about the sledging he faced and how the Australian attitude changed once he started to pile up runs, Pujara said: “Specially against Australia, I have realised, the start of series, (sledging) is always on high. In the past, we lost the first Test in Pune but won in Bengaluru. I think in the third Test at Ranchi, (Steve) O’Keefe said to me, ‘If you don’t get out now, we’ll have to ask for wheelchairs!’ Even here, there was a bit of sledging but they know I don’t respond…
“Sometimes, you (India) sledge because you have to disturb them. There are some who do sledge but it is important to not cross a personal line. It should be strictly related to the game but the ultimate focus should be to win the Test or the series.”
At the Express Adda, Pujara was in conversation with The Indian Express National Sports Editor Sandeep Dwivedi and Senior Assistant Editor Sriram Veera.