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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Cheteshwar Pujara: Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel reality check strengthened resolve

Cheteshwar Pujara, who will complete 50 Test matches for India in the second of the three-match series against Sri Lanka, says facing Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in his opening Test series helped him strengthen his resolve

india-vs-sri-lanka-2017 Updated: Jul 30, 2017 21:42 IST
Cheteshwar Pujara’s 153 helped India beat Sri Lanka by 304 runs in the opening Test at Galle.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s 153 helped India beat Sri Lanka by 304 runs in the opening Test at Galle.(AP)

There will be many reasons for Cheteshwar Pujara to feel special about playing the second Test at Colombo from August 3. For someone whose father dedicated his life trying to make an international cricketer out of his son, it will be a proud moment for the Pujara family to see him complete 50 Tests.

While it may be no record, it is considered the basic mark in the game that proves to Pujara he belongs to the highest level of cricket. And if he gets 44 more runs, Pujara will touch the 4000-run mark.

He has sure warmed up for the occasion with a solid 153 in the opening Test at the Galle International Stadium, taking his average to 52.18.

READ | Sourav Ganguly says India should be measured on performances outside Asia

First tour to South Africa

“The way things have shaped up so far, the career has been really good. There have been ups and downs but looking at recent form, I will be looking forward to playing in the 50th Test and scoring some runs for the team,” said Pujara, a day after helping India take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Ultimately, how you cope with the toughest tests in your career is what shapes your career. Pujara says he was lucky his first tour happened to be to South Africa (2011). Fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were at their peak and it was an eye-opener for Pujara.

“Well, my first away tour after making my debut, in 2011 when we went to South Africa facing Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, was the toughest part of my career. And I learnt, and when I went there again in 2013, it was a different ball game altogether,” said Pujara, 29.

READ | Virat Kohli achieves unique batting feat after brilliant ton against Sri Lanka

Tendulkar-Steyn duel

The most memorable part of that tour was the classic battle between Sachin Tendulkar and Steyn, and having watched it first-hand, Pujara went back wiser.

“Well, I told myself I have to work hard on my game, especially if I want to play at the international level against world-class bowlers in different conditions. After that, I really worked hard on my game, starting in 2011, and I got results in 2012 and 2013.

“I was looking at players like Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Paaji, all of them got runs on that tour. I was just trying to see the things they were trying to do. I had a chat with them and did try implementing a few things in the nets, which did help me later on.”

READ | India vs Sri Lanka: Visitors face selection ‘dilemma’ after Galle Test victory

Sharing the high points of his emotional journey in international cricket, Pujara said getting a double hundred in his first game for the India under-19 team and performing at the U-19 World Cup gave him the belief to dream about international cricket.

“The year 2010 was the most crucial year for me when I made my debut. The first Test I still remember because I wanted to play with legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag. Many of them were part of the Indian team and to share the dressing room with them… those are the moments that have stood apart. Apart from that, when we talk about Test series, the recent one against Australia was the toughest. That victory made it one of the best Test series I have been part of,” Pujara said.

For Pujara, it’s been a journey he has taken with his father, Arvind, who is still his best and worst critic. “Yes, he has been. I would like to thank him that I have reached this stage. At times, he has been very critical about my batting but now we have come to an understanding where we always speak and come to a conclusion. And he is not very strict anymore.”

First Published: Jul 30, 2017 20:55 IST