The script couldn’t have been better for Cheteshwar Pujara. It was Rajkot’s debut as a Test venue. His father was watching him live for the first time. And his wife was leading an army of adoring fans from the stands.
To everyone’s delight, Pujara marked the special day with an entertaining hundred.
“It means a lot. Obviously before I played this game there were many nervous moments but I told myself that I will just focus on the things I have to do on the field. Because there were expectations — many family members and close friends were watching this game, even the crowd was expecting me to score big runs. But I told myself that I don’t need to think about it, looking at the kind of position India was in, we wanted a good total, I just wanted to focus on the process and things turned out well for me,” said a beaming Pujara.
However, the crowd did spend some anxious moments when the England bowlers bowled two tight overs before tea to deny Pujara a single to complete his century. He went into the break at 99 not out. But, the Saurashtra batsman said century was never a target. He was aiming for a double.
“To be very honest, I was hoping to get a double hundred. My thinking was because they had so many runs on the board, I did not just want to score a hundred. If I got a double hundred, this will help the team. I told myself that it is not just about one more run, it was about 101 more runs. It would be really good for the team. I was nervous but I just wanted to focus on scoring more runs.”
Those who saw him bat fluently on Friday, would be wondering what all the fuss was about when skipper Virat Kohli had pointed out to his strike-rate being a concern.
“What Anil bhai (Kumble) told me is just to work on my intent. He mentioned that I had been batting really well and didn’t have to worry about my strike-rate. What he felt was that I was scoring runs in domestic cricket and it was time that I convert those 70s, 80s into big 100s. The way I’ve been batting, he told me that you don’t need to worry about your batting or strike rate, you just have the same intent which you have in domestic cricket and things will work for you.”
Following in the footsteps of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid (6920 runs together), a new partnership is developing in Indian team in the way Pujara and Murali Vijay are batting together. On Friday, the duo shared their sixth century stand. Pujara spoke about their chemistry and also the fact that they were two players who were now just Test specialists.
“I think it’s the communication. Both of us have been playing Test cricket for India for a long time. And especially Vijay and I are the ones who are just playing this format particularly. We spend a lot of time, not just on the field but also talking about the game, talking about this format.
“I think it’s the communication which keeps us going. We know each others’ strength, we know what the opposition is trying to do and we always try to communicate. I think that’s the most important thing about this batting unit, not just communicating with Vijay, but communicating with other players as well,” said Pujara, while lamenting the fact that both of them didn’t get to play other formats and hence missed out on quality practice.”
Pujara predicted the wicket to start taking turn from the fourth day and England will struggle to bat on it on the final day.