Cheteshwar Pujara is already seen as India's next big batting star in Tests. But he is determined to evolve, even bowl spin, to become a regular in the limited-overs teams, as he explains in this interview. Excerpts:
You have established yourself as a Test batsman, how do you plan to reinvent yourself for ODIs and T20s? Are you fighting a perception battle?
It's a case of perception. If you look at my domestic and list A matches, I have a decent strike rate. I have done well in Tests in the last one-and-half years and I want to extend that to other formats. I have even started bowling, not just to get an ODI place, but purely to contribute in some form or the other.
It is interesting you have turned a leg spinner.
I started out as a spin bowler and then became a batsman. I used to bowl leg spin in junior cricket, but due to my knee injury, I had stopped.
Won't pivoting exert pressure on your knees?
I have been working on my fitness, so there is no chance of a recurrent injury. And I am just bowling leg spin, trying to get control and gain confidence by playing some club matches. But that is not my priority. It is batting, fitness and fielding, in that order.
In Tests, you can take time to get a look in, but in ODIs your strike rate must be healthy. Is it going to be a battle against your natural instincts?
There isn't a huge difference between Tests and One-dayers. When you walk in, you still have two new balls and you have time to settle down. The real difference is between Tests and T20s. In Tests, once I score around 60-70, I step up my scoring with a strike rate of almost around hundred. It is during the death overs that one has to play innovative shots. In T20 format, I have to play strokes from ball one. For that, I have to add a few shots, play a few more shots.
In Tests, you duck and sway against bouncers, but in ODIs and T20 you got to play them. Is that going to change your approach?
In the matches in India against Australia and England, where I scored big runs, I played pull shots quite naturally. On slower wickets, I tend to play the pull shot a lot. But I am still trying to improve.
I don't want to play the pull only to the short deliveries. I am working on how to play it against back of the length deliveries. I am practicing a lot and will have the confidence to play them in matches also.
How do you maintain the tempo between Test series?
I keep myself busy playing club, office and local matches in Rajkot. I also play matches in Mumbai.
While away from the game, my practice and sometimes travel with India A takes care of maintaining my tempo.