Lack of warm-up fixtures 'a bit of a disadvantage', says Cheteshwar Pujara
"Test cricket needs to survive, and a WTC format helps where every Test, every series is important"
The absence of a proper warm-up fixture for India in the lead-up to the WTC final is a "bit of a disadvantage", but the team is happy just being able to play cricket in a pandemic-hit world, according to Cheteshwar Pujara.
"It is (a disadvantage), but this is something we can't control," Pujara said in a media interaction on Tuesday. "These are challenging times in the world because of the pandemic, and you can't have the luxury for extra preparation time. But the most important part is the game is still going on and that we're playing a final.
"Yes, preparation time is a bit of a disadvantage maybe, but if you're ready for the challenge, even if circumstances aren't favourable, you'd do well. We're confident as a team. Maybe a few extra days of preparation would've helped, but we can't complain. We're ready."
Nothing beats match time, and while India haven't had any, New Zealand have just finished a two-Test series against England - and won it 1-0.
India spent two weeks in quarantine in Mumbai before arriving in the UK on June 3. Over the past three days, the team has taken part in match-simulation exercises, apart from their regular fitness sessions in batches. Pujara said that the first few sessions upon arrival in the UK were simply about "getting back into rhythm" to shed the quarantine hangover, but they have since amped up their intensity.
"We've utilised the time really well," he said. "Even during the centre-wicket simulation, we had some practice wickets available. When in the middle, you want to ensure things you're working on in the nets to come along.
"For bowlers, it was important to get used to the workload again. They would have bowled 14-15 overs in the entire game, which is very important for their workload. For the batsmen, it was about spending time in the middle, having the discipline of leaving balls, playing shots you would in a game. So being in the middle and having match scenario is very important."
As a one-format player, for Pujara, the WTC final is as big as it gets, like any other global tournament final. "Personally, it means a lot to me," he said. "This is the first time we are in a WTC final. We have worked hard over a period of time. It's just like playing in a 50-over or T20 World Cup final.
"Test cricket needs to survive, and a WTC format helps where every Test, every series is important. If we win, then many youngsters would want to play the Test format and be part of the final when the next cycle comes around."
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo