Eighteen months ago Cheteshwar Pujara was considered one of the frontrunners to grab an India Test middle order spot. However, he was forced to undergo surgery on both knees and it dealt a blow to his hopes of cementing his place in the national side. Although a few others nosed ahead as he gradually eased himself back into the game, the Saurashtra batsman doesn't feel he is back to square one as he prepares for the 'A' tour to the West Indies.
“It is not that I'm starting from scratch, I played first-class cricket after my surgery and then a few games in the IPL. The 'A' tour is a big chance as a good performance here will get a player in the reckoning for the senior side,” said the skipper on the third and last day of a camp at the Ferozshah Kotla on Tuesday, on the eve of the team's departure.
Until his injury, the compact batsman was seen as a long-term replacement when the three India batting stalwarts retired, especially Rahul Dravid. Pujara, 24, said: “There are a number of youngsters who are very good, who can take the spot of Dravid. I also take the opening as a big motivation.”
After a subdued domestic season on his injury comeback, Pujara played just three IPL games for Royal Challengers Bangalore. “I didn't play a lot for RCB, but I was working hard in the nets.”
Pujara will be touring the West Indies for the first time but he has spoken to his RCB teammates and former India players on what conditions to expect there. “AB (De Villiers) gave me a few tips on how to bat on those wickets. They will be mostly slow like our tracks, apart from the one in Kingston.”
The last day of the camp also provided some reason for criticism as some of the players who featured in the IPL did not join. While Delhi batsman Shikhar Dhawan (Deccan Chargers) came in on Tuesday morning, Manoj Tiwary (KKR), Abhinav Mukund, Wriddhiman Saha (both CSK) and Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians) landed only in the evening.
The series comprises three four-day Tests, two T20s and three one-day games. Coach Lalchand Rajput said: “The best eleven will play but since this is a long tour, hopefully everyone will get an opportunity.”