New Delhi, January 1
Cheteshwar Pujara was one of India’s most consistent batsmen in 2016. The 28-year-old, with 836 runs from 11 Tests in the year, is looking to keep the good work going and develop into an all-format cricketer. During a chat with TOI on Saturday (December 31), the right-hander spoke on the secret behind his success in 2016 and a lot more. Excerpts:
How do you assess the year 2016 and the one that’s coming up?
Both for me personally, and from Team India’s standpoint, the year was just perfect in the way we played each game and executed our plans. My confidence levels are very high at the moment, and I hope to continue in the same vein in the coming year as well. The area that we, as a team, have always strivedfor is consistency. I would want to remain as consistent as possible and look to score runs each time I go out to bat. One saw you reinvent yourself in the latter half of the year, especially during the New Zealand and England series. Tell us about the work that went behind it?
During the New Zealand Test series, our coach Anil bhai (Kumble) told me that there was nothing wrong in the way I was batting. He said the area I could improve on was on my intent. Anil bhai said I had all the shots in the book, and all I needed to do was to play my natural game without worrying much about the strike-rate. He gave me the confidence that I had scored runs in domestic cricket and there was no reason why I can’t replicate the success at the international level. He gave me be lief and that paid off.
What does Kumble as a coach bring to the table?
As a cricketer who has played the game at the highest level for years, he knows each and every aspect of the game and his inputs are invaluable. He would give insights on the mindset of a bowler and as a batsman there is a lot to learn. We are a young team and it is great to have someone like him to guide us.
You are a mainstay in Tests. How do you assess your chances in the shorter formats of the game?
I definitely feel that I am batting well and it’s only a matter of time before I begin to do well in all formats of the game. I am sure my opportunities will come.
Among the bowlers you played this year, who has posed the biggest challenge?
I wouldn’t want to name any one particular bowler as the toughest I faced this year because international cricket is highly competitive. Be it the ones I faced in West Indies or in the matches I played subsequently, all of them were a challenge and I wouldn’t want to single out just one bowler.
You appeared in discomfort while facing the rising ball against the likes of Matt Henry, Trent Boult and even Chris Woakes. Do you want to work on it?
I think as an international cricketer, you have to keep evolving and constantly learn all the time. As a top-order batsman, my role is to go out there and score runs. The bowlers are constantly looking to get the better of me, and as a batsman I am out there to score runs and help in my team’s cause.
What’s the secret behind your fruitful partnership with Virat Kohli?
We both share a great rapport and have a very clear communication going on between each other. Virat brings a lot of positive energy to the crease and he looks to dominate from the word go. His positive intent rubs off on other members in the team. The moment he enters the crease, you can sense that the bowlers are under pressure. Virat brings intensity and that’s the best thing about him.
Will you be playing in the county next year as well?
It will all depend on how the season unfolds. It is too early to say how our schedules will be at that point of time. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed my last stint and there was a lot I learnt during my time in Yorkshire.
New Delhi, January 1