'One of my best domestic innings' - Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara, the India batsman, has rated his triple-century in Hubli as one of his best non-international innings. Upon reaching the landmark, he was elevated into an elite club of players who have hit three or more triples in their career, with only eight men before him having achieved this feat. More importantly, though, it came at a good clip, and gave India A enough time to bowl West Indies A out to share the three-match series 1-1.
This was also a rare series in which Pujara hadn't made a big contribution, until the last match. "It was one of the best innings in my domestic career because the wicket was doing a bit," he said. "There was enough help for the fast bowlers. I didn't get runs in the first two games. I never enjoy getting out. I really was frustrated because I felt that I was in good touch, but the runs were not coming. I would rate [this] as one of my best innings at the domestic level."
The three low scores might have frustrated Pujara, but there was always a feeling a turnaround was close. "I knew that there is a big one due but as a batsman, you never know. It is a matter of one ball," Pujara said. "At times you go through a phase where you want to succeed but you might not. But it is very important as a batsman to be focused, and the important thing was I was working hard. Whenever you are in good form, the best way to come back is to work hard in the nets. That is what I was doing."
What is the secret to scoring triples, though? After all, there are many great batsmen who have gone through their careers without scoring one, let alone three. "It's the hunger to score runs," Pujara said. "I think for this particular success, the failure in the first two games motivated me a lot. The kind of expectations people have, from the kind of ability I have, I have to live up to the expectations. This was the right time because it was an important match for us and I always like to score big runs.
"I always feel that when I cross the 100-mark, that's when I can start playing my natural game. All the shots come very naturally, and I don't have to put up any hard work or extra concentration because the rest of the things are all natural things, and I just go through the motions after I go through the hundred."
Does that mean that once the hundred is scored some pressure is lifted and it frees him up? "I think mentally I am very free once I score a hundred," Pujara said, "because as a batsman, you know the conditions, the bowler and most of the time the bowlers are tired. So you just have to use your brain and capitalise on the loose balls. And you also know what time to accelerate and what time you have to respect the bowler."
Capitalising on tired bowlers is one thing, to overcome your own tiredness is quite another. "Obviously, when you score a triple-hundred, you need a lot of stamina," Pujara said. "To be on the field for more than 10 hours is difficult, and you also have to field. So it's not an easy job, but I have been working for the past three-four months on my fitness, which is paying off."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo