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India vs Australia | Throwdowns with Plastic Balls: Pujara’s Preparation for Australia

“Easier time to score on wickets abroad is between 25-30 overs to 80 overs, but you need to survive till that time, that’s why he is so essential for the team. People who can play our bowlers bowling good spells and blunts the new balls, that’s the role Pujara can play. For Test matches, he is doing what is needed, I don’t think he will change in the future as well, people will regret talking against him in the future.”

Devadyuti Das |Cricketnext |January 5, 2019, 3:05 PM IST
India vs Australia | Throwdowns with Plastic Balls: Pujara’s Preparation for Australia

New Delhi: 521 runs, 1258 balls faced — colossal numbers that define Cheteshwar Pujara’s summer Down Under. In spite of being dismissed just seven short of his fourth Test match double hundred, Pujara set up what would most definitely be India’s finest overseas series triumphs in many years.

The runs, though, have come thanks to the effort that Pujara put in the lead-up to that tour. Ahead of India’s tour of Australia, Pujara turned up to play a Ranji Trophy match for Saurashtra against Chattisgarh in Rajkot and went on score 56 even though he was battling with a stiff neck.

Although he was going to bat on the docile Rajkot, the preparation was solely focused on Australia. “He (Pujara) prepares differently like according to the wicket what shots to play and what not to play. Before going to Australia, he was playing Ranji Trophy and I saw him practicing with heavy plastic balls which were thrown with a robo-arm. That ball bounces much more than a cricket ball and is even quicker off the wicket,” Pujara’s Saurashtra teammate Sheldon Jackson told CricketNext.

Saurashtra coach and another of Pujara’s former teammates Sitanshu Kotak also admired his dedication and focus. “He has played a lot of cricket and knows very well how to prepare for different conditions. He played one Ranji Trophy match with a stiff neck. His strength is temperament and determination, ability to occupy the crease — which matters a lot on the result-oriented wicket. He makes minor adjustments he knows what shots to play and what to avoid depending on different situations,” Kotak told CricketNext about Pujara.

It takes an immense amount of concentration to bat for more than 1,500 minutes in a series and Pujara has achieved that with ease. “I am not very sure about any drill but since his U-14 days his concentration level has always been 100 per cent,” said Jackson.

Pujara, who averages over 80 in this series, has scored his runs at a quicker clip than even his skipper Virat Kohli — 2.5 runs per over (rpo) as compared to 2.47 rpo.

Asked how Pujara dealt with criticism on his strike-rate in Test cricket in the past, Kotak said, “On Indian wickets where there is not much for fast bowlers, then you can talk about strike-rate but on fast and bouncy wickets outside the country, you need people to stay in the middle to score totals like 400-450. In Test cricket, you can’t expect everyone to play with high strike-rate to tire out the bowlers, I feel that is exactly what he is doing now and he did in England.

“Easier time to score on wickets abroad is between 25-30 overs to 80 overs, but you need to survive till that time, that’s why he is so essential for the team. People who can play our bowlers bowling good spells and blunts the new balls, that’s the role Pujara can play. For Test matches, he is doing what is needed, I don’t think he will change in the future as well, people will regret talking against him in the future,” Kotak felt.

If Pujara was every bothered by a few run out dismissal in Test cricket, Kotak said, “He works on his fitness regularly. He has worked on judging the singles because he is not the quickest runners between the wickets. After a certain age you can’t get really quick but he has become careful about not going for risky singles.”

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