Saurashtra v MP, Ranji Trophy, 9th round, 3rd day December 31, 2012

Playing England bowlers gave me confidence - Pujara


When you have scored Test hundreds against the likes of James Anderson and Graeme Swann, domestic first-class cricket becomes a breeze. So feels Cheteshwar Pujara, who displayed a little-seen side of his batting in Rajkot as he went from 150 to 200 in just 17 deliveries against a hapless Madhya Pradesh attack. Pujara said the belief gained from playing Anderson's reverse swing had enabled him to hit this Ranji season's leading wicket-taker Ishwar Pandey for five successive fours during his fifth first-class double hundred.

"When you have faced Anderson, it gives you a lot of confidence," Pujara told ESPNcricinfo. "When you can play his reverse swing, this becomes easy. It is also about the experience of playing against some of the best spinners in the world, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. When I batted in the second Test in Mumbai [he made 135 in the first innings], the wicket was a square turner. If you face those kinds of spinners in those conditions, then this is easier."

Pujara was India's leading run-getter in the four home Tests against England, making 438 at an average of 87.60. He repeatedly used his feet against Swann and Panesar and drew praise for his assured manner of handling quality spin. In Rajkot, he displayed his flexibility on a slow, low and slightly uneven pitch, not committing early against the MP spinners, and playing them late with deft wrists.

"The plan was to play late," Pujara said. "Actually my initial thinking was to play on the front foot because the odd ball was keeping low. But they were bowling a bit short, so I could get singles and also hit the odd boundary in an over. I had a very good partnership with Aarpit Vasavada. We were under a bit of pressure [at 23 for 3]. Once we had the partnership, which was really important, we knew we could get runs.

"The MP spinners were a bit inexperienced on how to go about bowling on this wicket and how to bowl in the right areas. They were allowing me to reach to the ball and I could play my shots. If they had continued bowling on the right length for a longer time, things might have been different."

Pujara said his main aim was to get some quick runs with Saurashtra intending to declare at tea, and that reaching a double was not on his mind. "I knew I had only about a couple of overs to score my runs. I thought of going after the bowling and having some practice for the remainder of the season. And once I had hit two boundaries in an over against their left-arm spinner, I thought if I keep hitting like this I might end up scoring a double hundred. But still, I never believed I could do it. And I got more than 127 runs in a session in the end."

In the 17 deliveries that he took to zoom from 150 to 200, Pujara hit ten fours and a six, including a reverse-sweep and a reverse-paddle off the left-arm spin of Rameez Khan. "They were bowling on the leg stump and the field was set on the leg side. I have practised that shot (the reverse-sweep). Even a couple of years ago, when a left-arm spinner tried bowling from over the wicket outside leg stump, I played that shot.

"That (the reverse-paddle) was surprising. Even I never thought I could play that. I knew there was no slip, and I could at least try that shot. These are the shots you can try after scoring a hundred. You can try new things and even if you end up getting out, there is no trouble for the team."

Such a dazzling display of strokes moved one to ask why he still does not find a place in the India ODI side. Pujara, who averages 56.97 in List A one-dayers, felt it was a just a matter of when, and not if. "That is something that is not in my control. I have always performed in domestic one-dayers. I don't need to worry about it. My time will come. One way or the other I will get my chance to play in the ODI team. I just need to keep performing."

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sunny on January 3, 2013, 16:11 GMT

    Focus should be building team for WC 2015.

    I believe Sehwag (was the best player i loved to watch) is past his sell date and also Gambhir. Pujara still has to considered. among young batting talent - Harpreet Singh from MP reminds me of raw Yuvraj when i saw him in Champions Trophy against Aus. if he can tighten his defense a bit more. Maybe investment has to be done in Unmukt Chand and Mandeep Singh along with Surya Kumar Yadav.

    Ishwar Pandey is good talent in the face bowler but needs to improve against left handers big time. How about Abhishek Nayar - his attitude has got me going for him. Also include Rahul Sharma.

    BCCI could do well to do some scouting for unorthodox bowlers in rural villages, there's a lot of talent just needs to go and scout. Identify young bowling talent like Ishwar Pandey's, Bhuvanesh Kumar's & some more send them to Aus to play for 6 months in domestic leagues to come out better bowlers.


    It's time to move on from oldies

  • Shridharan on January 2, 2013, 10:00 GMT

    There is a mistake in my squad for 2015 world cup.. Cheteshwar Pujara should come in for Abhinav Mukund.

  • Shridharan on January 2, 2013, 9:56 GMT

    Indian Team For 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup: 1. Ajinkya Rahane 2. Abhinav Mukund 3. Virat Kohli (c) 4. Unmukt Chand 5. Suresh Raina(vc) 6. Yuvraj Singh 7. Wriddhiman Saha(wk) 8. Bhuvneshwar Kumar 9. Ishant Sharma 10. Umesh Yadav 11. Pragyan Ojha 12. Ravichandran Ashwin 13. Irfan Pathan 14. Manoj Tiwary 15. Smit Patel (back-up keeper)

  • Ashok on January 2, 2013, 2:29 GMT

    @Sir.Ivor: Thanks for correcting Jonesy2. His comments shows that he did not even read this article before commenting. 438 runs in the 4 match series at an average of 87 is top class batting. If Gambhir had not ran him out + the Umpire had not given him out caught off forearm guard, his total & average would have crossed 100. Some people in this column are forgetting that Indian batting is very poor right now. India cannot afford to forget Pujara who is like Sachin or Dravid at their best. After 29 for 5 debacle, it shows how fragile are 2 openers, Kohli, Yuvraj & Rohit against good seamers. Sound batting technique is lacking & Pujara can provide it from one end. Only Gavaskar had scored more runs in Tests then Pujara after playing only handful of Tests.Talent,Temperment backed by patience are inherent in Pujara but lacking in all other batsmen. Pujara is like Amla of SA or Cook of England in consistency. Selectors have to be blind to ignore him for ODI #2. They need to wake up NOW!

  • Ashok on January 1, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    Currently Pujara is the best & most complete Indian batsman. He was denied continued chances in the Indian Team squads after his brilliant innings of 72 against the Aussies in the Bangalore Test match nearly 3 years ago.When batsmen like Rohit Sharma, Raina & Kohli have retained their place in all Indian squad, why on earth was Pujara excluded? What are the selectors expecting from a young batsman after proving his talent against the Aussies? While it is true Pujara was dealing with injured knee last year, it is still a mystery why he was not in the Squad for England tour. Pujara countered Anderson, Broad, Swann & Panesar with a double century & a century in 2 Tests- Yet he is not good enough to be in the Indian ODI team which had its top batting on its knees with 29 for 5! Here is a case of a young batsman in India who has no "God Fathers" who cannot make the Indian squad even after proving he is the best. Favouritism Rules. No wonder India is so poor with its best kept Out of XI !

  • Al on January 1, 2013, 14:50 GMT

    Get rid of Sehwag and Rohit from ODI team - bring in Rahane and Pujara. If Gambhir does not improve, drop him too and bring in Jaffer.

  • Abdul on January 1, 2013, 14:37 GMT

    India should drop Sehwag, Rohit and Jadeja and should include Rahane and Tiwary in their place. Rohit already taken a lot of chance didn't make use. He already proved he is not able to play at international level. Sehawg is not palying up to his potential because of lack of sincerity, So to teach him a lesson he should have to be dropped from the team for sometime.Don't give Jadeja more chance even if he perform well in domestic level because he is a complete waste at international level. India have to include some wicket taking bowlers like Sreesanth or Ojha into the team.

  • Dummy4 on January 1, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    Pujara should be drafted in ODIs without delay. He is a perfect foil for the attacking batsmen. Imagining if we had Pujara in the first ODI against Pak, things may have been different with his sound technique. Let us not waste this player

  • Subramani on January 1, 2013, 12:21 GMT

    jonesy2 Pujara scored an unbeaten double century and an unbeaten 40 odd chasing a target in the first Test, a hundred in the first innings in his 2nd Test and was caught at short leg of spin on a spiteful wicket in the second innings, he was run out courtsey Gambhir in the first innings in the third Test and was out to an umpiring horror in the second innings. So if he tapered off it was not because his intensity or skills had gone. I wish you would see the replays if you get the time to.The important point is that he seemed to have time to play his shots and was comfortable playing Anderson, and Co and Swann and Panesar. It was a good beginning and I am sure he will do well abroad because he is so utterly dedicated.

  • sam on January 1, 2013, 9:25 GMT

    Drop Sehwag and Gambhir bring Rahane and Pujara. If Sehwag and Gambhir play in WC 2015 both will be huge failures. Plan for WC 2015 by opening with Rahane and Pujara. ODI batting order should be Rahane, Pujara, Kohli, Tiwary, Yuvraj, Raina, Dhoni and the bowlers. Rohit has played enough ODIs and has failed enough. He should only concentrate on test cricket where I hope he will be successful as that is the format where there is no pressure of run-rate. Test batting order should be Rahane, Unmukt/Jiwanjot/Mukund, Pujara, Kohli, Rohit, Ashwin, Dhoni (in sub-continent) / Karthik (outside sub-continent), Umesh, Bhuvneshwar, Awana/Shami Ahmed/Ishwar Pandey, Ojha. Please consider these guys above Ishant Sharma.