Australia turned out to be a bridge too near, but Cheteshwar Pujara is confident of proving himself all over again as he returns to cricket following a knee surgery in July. His first test starts Tuesday, when Saurashtra face Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy in Bangalore.
“I’m disappointed (not to have made the Test squad for the tour of Australia), but I am looking forward to the Ranji matches. I am fully fit and have been eagerly waiting for a chance to play,” said the right-hand middle-order batsman.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery Pujara had on his right knee in England on July 1 was his second, the 23-year-old having had one on his left knee in South Africa in 2009.
While he was busy with rehab, the competition raced ahead. Virat Kohli had two grabs at a Test slot and he appears to have seized it on the second attempt. Ajinkya Rahane did enough in ODIs to suggest he could replicate it in Tests, and Rohit Sharma returned to the India squad with runs in domestic cricket.
Pujara remains confident. “I have done it before, against Australia (match-winning second-innings 72 at Bangalore on Test debut last year) and in South Africa (where he impressed with his technique and temperament, though not with runs). And I’ve got age on my side,” he said.
He has taken the surgeries in his stride. “My left knee has held up fine. I have actually become a better fielder and a better athlete since 2009.”
Pujara faced the Saurashtra bowlers before the team travelled to Bangalore. “He shaped up well in the nets. He just needs to play matches,” Saurashtra coach Debu Mitra said.
The chairman of the national selection committee, Kris Srikkanth, had words of encouragement. “Our domestic cricket is quite strong now with a number of batsmen trying to make a comeback in the India team — Pujara, Abhinav Mukund and Yuvraj Singh, to name a few. As long as they are fit and scoring runs, they can definitely play a part in the future of Indian cricket,” he said.