Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Virat Kohli, India's captain, has said he was involved in a discussion with Cheteshwar Pujara over his strike rate in Test cricket during the recent tour of the West Indies. Sandeep Patil, who recently ended his term as the chairman of selectors, told ABP News on Sunday that Kohli and coach Anil Kumble had spoken to Pujara expressing concern over his scoring rate, when he was dropped in the West Indies. Pujara, who scored 16 off 67 balls and 46 off 159 in the first two Tests, was left out for Rohit Sharma in St Lucia. This resulted in Kohli's promotion to No. 3, from where he scored 3 and 4. Both Pujara and Rohit have featured in the two Tests that India have played since.
After the West Indies tour, Pujara played in the Duleep Trophy, scoring 166 off 280 balls, 31 off 35, and 256 off 363. Back in the Test side, Pujara scored at a strike rate of more than 50 in both innings of the Kanpur Test against New Zealand, scoring 62 and 78. His career strike rate before the Test began was 48.2.
"Pujara is someone who absorbs the pressure really well but after a certain stage in the innings there comes a time when the team needs runs," Kohli said at the end of the Kanpur Test. "That's where we felt that he has the ability to capitalise. It was just about conveying that to him. He has worked hard on his game. He scored at a good strike rate in the Duleep Trophy. Even on this wicket he was scoring at 65, almost 70 strike rate.
"Which for me was a revelation, to see Pujara bat that way. Because he used to bat that way initially. Especially at home. If you see his double-hundreds against England and Australia, he will dominate spinners. That's exactly what we wanted him to do. We didn't want him to go into a shell. We want Pujara to bat to his potential. Once he starts scoring runs to go with the composure he already has, it becomes very difficult for the opposition to have control of the game. That's all we wanted to convey to him.
"He's someone who understands what the team wants. He has worked hard on his game. He has come back, and he is playing more positively. Which we appreciate as a team and me personally as a captain. That he has actually gone and worked hard on his game. He has not told us this is my comfort zone and I am not going to get out of it. That is the kind of characters we need to win games and series."
In another context, speaking about handling different characters, Kohli spoke of cricket that didn't care too much about individual records. "If you have honesty in the change room, if you have an environment that is relaxed, they will be able to express themselves better on the field," Kohli said. "They will understand, they will listen to you. They will have the trust. They trust you are not saying anything that will harm them. It's only for the benefit of the whole team. Once you have that environment in the change room, it becomes very easy as a captain to ask anything of any player. And everyone is ready all the time.
"One thing we have spoken about is we want to play a certain brand of cricket. Along those lines, personal performances will happen or won't happen. If they happen, yes you feel good about them, but the eventual target is to win games and win series. We want to be a high-quality team for a long time. It's just to get them rid of those pressures of individual performances. Once you take pressures of your own performance things can flip very quickly. You will not be able to play the way the team wants you to play. And you will not be able to perform on a personal level as well."