Virat Kohli may be the most valuable Indian cricketer at the moment but former India captain Sourav Ganguly said on Wednesday that Cheteshwar Pujara is also equally good and is someone who goes “unnoticed”.
“Along with Virat Kohli in this team Pujara’s record is as good as anybody. He’s from that old school of cricket where he will grind you, and win you matches but he goes unnoticed,” Ganguly said, heaping praise on the Test specialist.
Ganguly was addressing a gathering during the Kolkata book launch of his memoir ‘A Century Is Not Enough’ which was attended by Pujara.
“The best team had the best number three. When India played at its best the best number three was (Rahul) Dravid. When India played at its best away, it’s Pujara at number three,” Ganguly said.
“They actually take the shine off the new ball, allow the stroke makers to make batting easier. He (Pujara) is as important to this Test team as Virat Kohli. But sometimes he goes unnoticed. Look at his Test records, after 57 Tests, he has 14 hundreds.”
Ignored for the upcoming IPL, Pujara will use the free period to hone his skills at Yorkshire for a second county stint.
“I still prefer to play in the old school, spend a lot of time at the crease, read situation and then start scoring runs,” Pujara said.
“Once you assess the conditions, you know what the bowlers are up to and you are in a different zone. I don’t need to worry about playing shots it comes naturally.”
Pujara, however, said recently he’s trying out playing lofted shots to meet the demands of the limited overs cricket when he turns up for his home state Saurashtra in domestic season.
“Obviously not for Tests, but when I practised for T20 matches, I practised reverse sweeps. If you need to get better at something, you need to start playing the shots,” he said.
“To get myself better in one-dayers and T20s, I also started playing lofted shots. Before five-six years, I never used to play any lofted shots. I’ve been working in that in the nets, when it comes off they (teammates) are very happy about it.”
The programme was also attended by Ganguly’s former teammates Harbhajan Singh and VVS Laxman, the two famous architects of the 2001 Test victory at Eden Gardens.
“This book would never happened if it was not for the 2001 Test and the Pakistan series (2003-04).”
VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid combined for a 376-run stand at the Eden Gardens, paving way for an unlikely Indian win in the epic Test.
After following-on, India batted long enough in the second innings to declare for 657/7, setting Australia a target of 384.
Ganguly revealed that it was a note from his father from the gallery upstairs that had prompted him to declare the innings.
“I got a chit from my dad who wrote ‘what’s happening, why you’re not declaring? Everybody is screaming at the top of their head’,” he said.
Hat-trick man Harbhajan bagged six wickets in the second innings to return with a match haul of 13 wickets to hand India a 171-run win.
Crediting Ganguly for all he achieved, Harbhajan said: “If Dada was not my captain, I would not have been here. Bowler banaya jata hai. Bowler banane ke liye cpatin chahiye, jigrewala. (You need a big-hearted captain to make a bowler).”