IPL 2014 May 18, 2014

Pujara confident of short-form success

Cheteshwar Pujara says finishing in the top two at the end of the league phase is Kings XI Punjab's "main focus" at the moment. Speaking to ESPNcricinfo ahead of Monday's clash against bottom placed Delhi Daredevils, Pujara said, "We are very hopeful we'll be able to win the title. At the moment, the focus is on playing the next few games and being in the top two so that we have an opportunity of making it into the final even if we lose the first qualifier."

Having won eight of their ten games this season, Kings XI can confirm a spot in the knockouts with a win at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Pujara attributes the team's success this season to the team "playing to its potential" after a well thought-out auction strategy. "It was important to get the momentum and start winning from the first game onwards. The win against Chennai was the most memorable one, where we chased over 200," he said. "That was a great beginning and then everything went on our side."

Pujara, who began the season as Virender Sehwag's opening partner, was left out after the first six matches, in which he made 125 runs at an average of just 25 at a strike rate of 100.80. He defended those numbers saying he had a "role to play" according to the situation. "I just had to make sure that I stayed around and tried to rotate the strike," he said. "Overall I am happy with the way things have gone. I am also working on a few things that will allow me to more successful in this format, hopefully with time and experience it will come off."

Those numbers, though, have given voice to critics who believe Pujara is unsuited to limited-overs cricket. Pujara admits that "perception" exists but says, having played bowlers such as Steyn and Morkel "successfully at Test level in overseas conditions" and having a "decent average and strike rate" (3082 runs @ 55.03 with nine hundreds in 70 games) in one-day cricket at domestic level, it is "a matter of time" before he succeeds.

Despite having played only two one-day internationals, Pujara is confident of making the India squad for the World Cup less than a year from now. "I am focusing on improving my cricket. First thing that is coming up is the England series and let's see how it goes," he said. "Maybe even the Bangladesh series is there, so I am very hopeful I will be part of the ODI side."

One of the key factors in Kings XI's run this season has been Glenn Maxwell's consistently astonishing assaults. Pujara reveals he finds it much more "fun to be at the crease and watch him play rather than watch from the dressing room".

"The good thing about him is that between overs he always interacts about how the bowler is bowling or what are the things that he is planning for the next over," Pujara said. "He targets a few areas where he wants to hit."

While the IPL is the focus right now, the 26-year-old is already thinking ahead to the tour of England that starts in late June. "All the youngsters who were part of the South African and New Zealand series are more confident going into this series," he said. "It will be a different unit for sure. I have toured there with the India A team, and wickets and conditions are obviously challenging but somehow I love playing in those conditions. I am hopeful we will be able to put up a good show in the series."

Having had a successful series in South Africa recently where he made 280 runs at an average of 70.00, including a hundred in the first Test at Johannesburg, Pujara is confident he can now get runs consistently in overseas conditions. "I have a reasonable record playing in South Africa and New Zealand," he said. "Obviously, I didn't get as many runs in New Zealand but overall I think I played reasonably well."

Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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  • Cricket on May 19, 2014, 13:06 GMT

    Pujara has shown that he is more than capable of playing a run a ball. He did that throughout this IPL, and has done it at test level too. In ODI's a strike rate of 80+ is considered pretty good and Pujara can easily manage that. Plus he has the ability to bat deep and provides a solid, calm hand at the top. He has been a bit out of his depth in the IPL, trying to slog the ball, but I'm sure he'll return to his smooth, silken strokeplay if he is given a chance in ODIs. He is one of the best players of pace that India has and although Uthappa is looking good, he is yet to be tested outside India. I think Pujara can be an invaluable asset for the 2015 WC. He should be drafted into the side and given as much practice as possible. Rohit Sharma is just not getting the job done at the top. He has always been more comfortable in the middle and seems to be a forced experiment now.

  • Naresh on May 19, 2014, 6:14 GMT

    I dont think batting is too much concern for the selectors. Amongst Rahane, Pujara, Uthappa, Vijay, Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, we should find two good test openers and two good odi openers. We now also have a dearth of good wicketkeepers coming thru. Its the bowling that is of primary concern. The IPL is now playing a crictical role in defining players who come up face to face with the best foriegn players.

  • Android on May 19, 2014, 3:59 GMT

    @yuvi_gladiator , Bro, Pujara has a domestic ODI (List A) average of 55 odd. He's not good enough for this format ? He hardly gets any chances. Look at Rohit Sharma. He's gotten so many extended runs by the captain and selectors and finally when he was made an opener, he blossomed. Selectors need to show the same kind of faith in Pujara. Dravid wasn't so great in the ODI arena either. He once hit 1 off 29 balls against Australia in an ODI match. But he later on sought to work on his skills and obtained the faith of the selectors and finally improved on his strike rate and played so many brilliant innings after that. All Pujara needs is a chance.

  • Satwant on May 19, 2014, 2:45 GMT

    he is a great test batsman and that is about it. he is not good enough to be in the odi squad at the moment and has not even done well in domestic 50 over competitions. there are so many who are better at it than him. raina will probably make a comeback and so should gambhir and yuvi based on the performances.

  • Madhu on May 18, 2014, 14:04 GMT

    Pujara has great potential for ODI and especially in Australia and NZ in 2015. He should concentrate on Test and ODI for now. T20 record is not useful to assess readiness in ODI. We should have him play in Bangladesh and England ODI. He can anchor the top order with strike rate of 90 upto 30-35 overs and then let the big hitters come in. I can see Pujara playing like Hashim Amla or Ian Bell in ODI averaging 40-50 . He can see off the 2 new balls on pacy wickets. With pujara in, India can be 150-200 for the loss of 2 -3 wits at the end of 35 overs.

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2014, 13:53 GMT

    . Pujara is a wasted talent. If he has provided with the half of the chance what Rohit got, we would have the best opening pair in the world.

    Pujara must be in a Test and ODI team all the time.

  • Android on May 18, 2014, 12:12 GMT

    pujara is good a batsman on test.. t20 and odi he is strugling so dnt spoile his test teqnick so nt focus on t20 r odi..ok

  • Android on May 18, 2014, 12:10 GMT

    Thay have to include him in the ODI team. he is a keybplayer and IPL should not be the basisi of ODI selection!!!!!! BCCI needs to know this..or somebody needs to put this up at their faces. A player of Pujara's quality cannot be wasted for too long. he has a quality of stabling an innings in the mid overs. we need someone who can do that.

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