India news March 11, 2014

Pujara sharpening bowling skills

ESPNcricinfo staff

Cheteshwar Pujara has said he has begun to bowl in the nets so that he can add another aspect to his game. Pujara has increasingly become a popular choice for a batting slot in the Indian ODI side, but the team management has resisted playing him. His only two ODIs have come against Zimbabwe when most of the senior batsmen were resting. The popular dissatisfaction around Pujara's non-inclusion reached a height when former captain Sunil Gavaskar almost alleged "favouritism" when India didn't play Pujara in what was an inconsequential match against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup.

India had already been knocked out after defeats to Sri Lanka and Pakistan. There was similar uproar when Pujara didn't get picked for the New Zealand ODIs despite the failure of the incumbent batsmen in the ODIs in South Africa.

"I have also started bowling in nets so that I can contribute as a part-time bowler," Pujara, who has bowled in 10 innings in 93 first-class games, told PTI. "I want to help my team with part-time bowling if the captain wants me to. I am looking to bring improvement in my game, most important being playing on the rise. I am targeting specific areas, which include analysis of my batting and what mistakes I am committing in the middle. It will help me in the longer run."

Pujara is also banking on a good IPL season to further stake his claim. He has played 24 matches over four seasons, collecting 265 runs with a strike rate of 99.25.

"If I can prove myself in the IPL, I am confident that I can get success in ODIs too," Pujara, who was bought by Kings XI Punjab, said. "I had played a couple of good innings for my last franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, which proved that I have the talent to excel in the shortest format also. It's all about getting more opportunities in the coming future. I am looking forward to have a successful IPL."

The commitment to expanding his skills comes on the back of wanting to be part of the World Cup side, which will be played in Australia in early 2015. "I do like to play one-day format," he had told Star Sports in January. "Especially with the 2015 World Cup coming up, I hope I get a chance to play in that team. As a cricketer, everybody dreams to play the World Cup for India and when I was playing one of the Ranji games India won the 2011 World Cup, and we all were following the game and we felt really proud on India winning the World Cup. And when you have the opportunity of serving the country and be part of the team it will be a different feeling. And there are a few things I am working on to be part of the one-day team."