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News

Pujara: If we can win at Edgbaston, it will be one of India's best wins

Series against England resumes on July 1 with India leading 2-1

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
25-Jun-2022
Cheteshwar Pujara plays a pull, South Africa vs India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 1st day, January 11, 2022

Cheteshwar Pujara: We are 2-1 ahead, but at the same time this is the most important Test match of the series  •  AFP/Getty Images

India have been on the cusp of history for nearly a year now. They left England in September with a 2-1 lead in a five-match series. Now, finally, the series will resume on July 1 at Edgbaston, and if it does go India's way, Cheteshwar Pujara believes it will be one of their greatest wins ever.
"I think the most important thing is we have a good bunch of players," he told the BCCI website on the sidelines of their practice game against Leicestershire on Wednesday. "We have quality fast bowlers. So the way the guys did in the last four Test matches here, I'm sure the guys are eager to do the same thing again and if we can win this particular Test match and win the series on English soil, I think it will be one of the best victories India has."
India did hold the upper hand when the series was put on hold on hold on account of Covid-related concerns. KL Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah inspired a phenomenal victory at Lord's on the last day. Rohit Sharma proved that his Test-match skills are on par with his one-day brilliance with a defensive masterclass at the Oval. Jasprit Bumrah was phenomenal all through and with Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj running in from the other end there was rarely a let-up in pressure.
But things are different now. With Brendon McCullum's arrival as coach, and Ben Stokes' promotion to captain, England have embraced a no-holds-barred style of playing Test cricket which has already helped them make history. In only the second match under new management, they beat world champions New Zealand by chasing down 299 in 50 overs. India may have a lead going in, but most of their squad is coming off a season of T20 cricket, while their opponents have already been battle-hardened in long-form play.
"I think it's a good challenge for us," Pujara said. "Yes we are 2-1 ahead in the series, but at the same time this is the most important Test match of the series. And as you mentioned it is after a long time. So we just need to regroup. We just need to understand our strengths.
"The good part for us is we are here early. There is plenty of time to prepare for all the players. And yeah, if we play to our potential, if we stick to our strength, understand what we need as a team and what had given us success in those four Test matches which we played here, we just need to repeat those things.
"But at the same time there are some changes in the England squad. So we need to understand their strength and then try and have a strategy - I'm sure the support staff and management will talk about strategy later. But we need to plan it well for this particular Test match."
India last won a series against England in England in 2007, when their current coach Rahul Dravid captained them to glory. Hoping to pull off an encore 15 years in the making, the selectors have turned to Pujara again after dropping him for the home series against Sri Lanka in March. The 34-year old has extensive experience of batting in seaming conditions, which he put to good use in April and May, scoring 720 runs in eight innings for Sussex in Division Two of the County Championship.
"It is important to bat well in phases," Pujara said when asked about his game plan. "You have to bat well throughout but you need to understand important phases of the game. Like with the Dukes ball, when it is new, you need to make sure that you don't lose too many wickets early on. And as a batter, you need to be a little compact, you need to concentrate a little harder than what you do with the old ball.
"And there are times when bowlers are charged up and they are bowling a really good spell. You need to understand that. You need to respect that. And there are also times when you can accelerate, when you understand that the ball is not doing well and the bowlers are a little tired and you need to capitalise on those moments. It's always good to score runs, especially when you are playing in England when the ball keeps doing something throughout the day."
Pujara has already been front and centre once when India made history by winning their first Test series in Australia in 2018-19 and he knows this team is capable of scaling even bigger heights.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo