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The WTC Final Will Be A Huge Game For All Of Us: Cheteshwar Pujara

In an exclusive interview to Moneycontrol, Cheteshwar Pujara reveals his desire to revive his limited overs and IPL career and the excitement in the team to have qualified for the final of the World Test Championship in England in June this year.

The WTC Final Will Be A Huge Game For All Of Us: Cheteshwar Pujara

Cheteshwar Pujara is one of the greatest batsmen in India’s Test cricket history with an aggregate of 6244 runs in 85 matches at an average of 46.59 including 18 hundreds. Often labelled as a Test specialist, the ‘New Wall’ of India has just played 5 ODIs for the country and is yet to make his debut in the T20I format.

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Pujara would be making a comeback to the IPL after a gap of seven years and will be seen in action with the MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings this season.

In an exclusive interview to Moneycontrol, Pujara reveals his desire to revive his limited overs and IPL career and the excitement in the team to have qualified for the final of the World Test Championship in England in June this year.

Pujara said he was grateful to the CSK management for giving him an opportunity in the 2021 IPL. CSK bought Pujara for a sum of INR 50 lakh in the Auction in February.

“First of all, I would like to thank the CSK team and management for putting faith in me. CSK has a great record and we all know about that. I will try to learn a lot from the team and will also get guidance from them.”

Pujara added that he was looking forward to play under skipper Dhoni who understood his game and strengths and weaknesses having played with him for India in Test cricket.

“It is a very significant factor. Mahi bhai is one of the most experienced players. I don’t have to add anything about his stature as an iconic captain but yes it does help as he knows a lot about my strength and game. He will try to get the best out of everyone.”

When asked about the significance of the World Test Championship Final in June in England, Pujara stated that it will be a huge game for the entire team.

“That will be a huge game for all of us because we have worked very hard to reach there. Each Test and series was very important for us which has taken us to England for the final. This team has shown that we have got tremendous potential and hopefully we will do well in the final as we have been doing in Test cricket for a long time.”

Pujara recently became the sixth-fastest Indian batsman to reach the 6000 Club in Test cricket. Although he was happy to reach the milestone he added that he did not pay much attention to stats and numbers and instead focused on doing the job for the country.

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“Of course, it is a great feeling when you get to know about such milestones but I don’t pay much attention to stats since I always think about what is my role for the team and how can I help in winning matches and I try to play accordingly. There is still a lot to achieve in my career and there is no need to focus much on milestones because it will keep happening if I continue to do well for my country.”

Pujara was in fine form and the best Indian batsman across two successive tours Down Under. He said that the historic series win in 2018 will always be very special as it was India’s first in Australia.

“Any tour of Australia is always a big challenge and very important for us. In that sense, the 2018 win was the most special. And then of course our last series win was also very special because the team was relatively weak as some of the senior players were not there and some of them were injured and not available for all the matches. As a team, it was a huge achievement and personally it was very satisfying. Fortunately for me, whatever I had planned for those tours, did click.”

“Australia is one of the best teams and a benchmark. Their bowling attack is one of the best in world cricket and doing well against them gives you some pride but you can’t be sitting on past laurels. You have to start afresh for a new challenge,” added Pujara.

Pujara’s role and importance to the Indian Test XI is finally being recognized by the management and getting praise from Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri. Criticized for his slow batting before, Pujara batted for his life and saved and won the team a couple of matches in Australia with sheer doggedness, concentration and attaching a massive price on his wicket and the team recognized and appreciated his efforts.

He formed a unique pair with the swashbuckling Rishabh Pant and complemented him brilliantly in Australia. While Pant attacked from one end, Pujara stood like a rock at the other.

“The team management has always backed me for my role. Every player has to play according to his strength. Especially away from home, which are most important because you have to negotiate the challenges of the new ball. My role is clear that the top order shouldn’t lose too many wickets and that is what I try to achieve. At the same time, Rishabh sticks to his strength. The team is only successful when roles are defined clearly and everyone is doing what he is expected to do. It’s about the collective effort which we take most.”

Pujara’s father and uncle both played first class cricket and cricket runs in the family. When asked, on a lighter note, whether his three year old daughter would also hold the bat one day, Pujara replied, “Oh, it’s too early for that as she is just three years old. I won’t force her but later on she can take her decision.”

When asked whether the competition for slots and berths made him nervous and insecure regarding his own position in the Indian XI, Pujara said that competition only made him better.

“As an individual, if you think like that you can’t be successful. Competition is always good and bench strength is also very important. We have the challenges of different formats, injuries and so many matches being played these days. As a player if you want to be successful, you have to play well consistently. Whenever there is a competition, you will keep getting better.”