Australia coach Justin Langer was all praise for Cheteshwar Pujara, stating that the world no. 3 ranked Test batsman’ concentration while in the middle surpasses even that of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. “I have never seen a batsman watch the ball as closely as he (Pujara) does, and that includes Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. His concentration was a challenge. And we have to keep getting better just like him, all our batsmen and bowlers,” Langer said in his first interaction with the media since Australia’s 2-1 defeat to India at home in a four-match Test series.
Pujara was India’s best batsman throughout the series, scoring 521 runs at an average of 74.42. He faced a whopping 1258 balls which is the highest for an Indian on Australian soil.
He shared a partnership with Virat Kohli in the second Test that lasted over 400 deliveries and was one of the main reasons why Australia had to bowl over 200 overs at MCG and nearly 170 in the first innings of the second.
“The first innings in Melbourne and Sydney, honestly, sucked the life out of us because when you are in the field for two days, with only one spin bowler, that takes energy out of the group,” said Langer.
“We have the best spinner and three outstanding pace bowlers, against the outstanding Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. So it takes some mental and physical energy out.”
The two sides now play a three-match ODI series that starts on Saturday and Langer said that the struggles will continue for Australia because India are just as good a one-day side. He gave an example from his own stellar career in trying to explain how a victory in the ODI series would be just as important for Virat Kohli and co. as was their success in Tests.
“After losing in 2001, in 2004 when we finally beat India in India at Nagpur, without doubt that was the Everest moment of my cricket career. So I am sure for most of the Indian players, especially Virat Kohli, it feels the same but when you are at the top, things are on the way down,” he warned the visitors.
“They will be very buoyed and excited but we plan to fight for every thing. They have a good one-day team and we are up against it. Let’s hope we are better than we were in the Test series,” Langer said.
Australia have made an addition to their squad with batsman Ashton Turner coming in for Mitchell Marsh who is suffering from gastroenteritis and is not available for the first ODI.
Australia have recalled off-spinner Nathan Lyon to their ODI squad, and Langer said that this is a move keeping the World Cup in mind, but didn’t commit if the hosts would play two spinners in the first match of the series itself. “Lyon’s record in white ball cricket is very good and he is the best spinner in the world. So it would be a waste of opportunity if we don’t play him in white ball cricket particularly with the World Cup coming up.
“He is also a gun fieldsman. He is nice and fit, and a gun fielder. I cannot wait to see how he goes and he is also excited about it,” he said.
In addition, he spoke about Australia’s World Cup preparations, and how they are close to finding the group of players in a bid to retain their 2015 title this summer.
“No one ever feels locked in. We have a clear plan how we will play our one-day cricket between now and the World Cup. It will be a great opportunity for Lyon and for our batsmen, as we have 10-15 games before the World Cup. So we will pick our (final) side after that. As always we will look to prepare well and win the World Cup,” he said.
“In the next few months we will have a group of players together and build towards the World Cup, for which we have a clear idea of who we would like to have but we will have to wait,” he signed off.