With the IPL in full swing in India, the county season began in England on Sunday. Cheteshwar Pujara, who will turn out for Yorkshire, spoke to The Indian Express about why he changed his batting stance for the Australia tour, how he dealt with failure and why he believes he has a T20 future too. Excerpts:
Was it difficult to pack your bags and leave for England at the time when the whole of India was gearing up for IPL?
I can’t do much about it. I have to live with the fact that I’m not there and that is the truth. I need to utilise these two months so the county stint was the best option. It will benefit me in the longer run.
Did you ever think you will go unsold?
I never thought so but you can’t control what happens at an auction. My success rate in the IPL has not been great but I will find a solution for it soon. My strength has been Tests and one-dayers. I have never been as consistent like Maxwell and Gayle but things will fall in place in the future.
So have you accepted the fact that there is life beyond T20?
It’s only this year that I’m not there. If my international stint goes well next season then I might come back. It is not that I have been banned for my entire career to play T20.
Coming back to the county stint, you must have listed down things to do next month?
It will be a long season and a challenging one. Key will be the opening games and acclimatising to the conditions. It will be cold and the ball will move a lot there for the first few weeks. To play in that cold will be a great challenge. I will learn from each game. I will share my experience and try to learn from their experience. One can only survive if they have the right technique.
You had a solid start to you career but there has been a slump too?
Things didn’t go well for me in England and Australia. It was not that I was not in form. I was scoring 30-40s. If a batsman is scoring those runs then you can’t say that he is out of form. I just couldn’t convert my starts. Conditions were different and few decisions went against me when I was just about to score big.
Didn’t you try to find a solution to it earlier?
Mentally, it is very challenging, that is what I am trying to learn. Bolna aasan hota hai, ke leave it, we should concentrate on next game but in reality it’s very difficult. At the back of your mind, it keeps affecting you. When you take guard, face bowlers, your failures return to haunt you. I got frustrated and asked myself aisa kyun ho raha hai mere sath. I just couldn’t move on from those failures. You start focusing on wrong things than thinking about positives.
You must have spoken to somebody about it?
I spoke to Duncan (Fletcher) and Ravi (Shastri). One day I just bumped into Rahul Dravid, I spoke to him a lot. It won’t be right to disclose those conversations but it was more of a technical thing. I have written it down – each of the points to be done.
Sunil Gavaskar was worried you changed your backlift?
I saw all my videos from junior, Ranji to one-dayers. I had changed my stance before the Australian tour hoping that it will help me. It just didn’t click and things didn’t go as I had planned. I was trying to stand upright but later I felt that the stance needs more practice before using in the game. By the time I realised this it was too late. Now, I have moved back to the original one and now am feeling more confident like before.
On whose advice did you decide to change your stance?
I thought that the wicket in Australia has bounce. So before going many said that I should try to change my stance, it might help me to deal with the bounce much better. I didn’t do it as an experiment…it could have been wrong or right. I believe things will be now different if I go back to England and Australia because failure teaches a lot.
Many call you flat track bully? How do you handle the criticism?
I had a good South Africa tour, scored against the best bowling attack. Overall you can’t say it was a failure, I felt my past two tours were average. Sometimes my job is to kill time, lay a platform for others, see through the phase. Sometimes the score doesn’t give the full picture of your contribution.