Having gone unsold at the IPL auction in January 2018, India's seasoned Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara had opted to play in the English County Championship for Yorkshire. At that point in time, Pujara had mentioned that he will use his stint to prepare for the blockbuster Test series against England, scheduled to start on August 1.
Although Pujara did not take the county circuit by storm, he has studied the conditions to get ready for the much-awaited series. In his recent interview with DNA, Pujara revealed how his stint was with the Yorkshire and how it will help him during the England Test series.
“I started playing in April. A week before that, there was snowfall. We did not get our first game, it was washed out. Yes, the wickets were challenging. There was enough help for the bowlers. I was confident, I was batting well in the nets and even in the middle. After a start, you sometimes get some balls that are tough, though I won't say they were unplayable. As a batsman, you need a bit of luck especially at the start, which did not go my way. After a while, I started scoring runs in white ball cricket,” Pujara quoted.
“It will definitely help. At the same time, when you are playing Test cricket, the bowlers are different, the pitches might be slightly different. The county experience will definitely help me in Tests. At the same time, you cannot take anything lightly because you have experience. You can be successful. You still have to prepare well, focus and still score runs. Yes, experience will help, but when I start playing Tests, focus and preparations have to be there. It is a big series and all of us will prepare well,” he added.
It was Pujara’s fourth season in county cricket. The right-hander has played for Derbyshire in 2014 while he played for Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Sharing his experience of life as a county cricketer, Pujara said: “Life is easier. The good thing is you get enough with a family, you can go out for a meal, be on your own. Not many recognise you. You can walk on streets, live a normal life. In India, you hardly get to go out, you cannot walk on the streets without being recognised. Here, you can visit a super market, go out for shopping, have a normal life and drive around. Even for away games, you don't have to take flights. Here it is maximum 3-4 hours drive.”
“It is quite convenient, spending time with Yorkshire boys, I have played in the past, I have known all of them. You spend time with them if family is not around, you go out for a meal, socialise. I enjoyed the culture and the way cricket is played, I do share my experience and also get to learn. You learn from your mistakes, learn from your experience. I have enjoyed my stint here,” he elaborated.
Pujara shared the dressing room with England Test captain Joe Root at Yorkshire. When asked if interacting with Root gave him any insights about the England team, the Saurashtra batsman said: “No insight as such. Now-a-days, all matches are televised. When England played Pakistan, we saw what team they played. We don't need any extra insight. Everything is open now. They also know what Indian team is about. You have all the info in the world.”
“When I talk to Joe Root, I talk about international experience, the opponents, the different teams he has played against, as a batsman, as a cricketer how someone prepares, the kind of life one lives. You always discuss normal things, not always about cricket. I don't think there is anything extra you need to know. There is enough footage. You know what their bowling strengths and weaknesses are,” he further revealed.
In the forthcoming Test series, four of the five venues are the same as that in 2014 tour. When asked how much will the familiarity of the venues help, Pujara said: “When we play again there, the situation or condition might be different. At the same time, when you have played there in the past, it always helps. You know what to expect out of of this ground. It may be slightly different but won't be massive. You know the pitch behaves in certain manner. If you know that, it will always help. Having played in four venues, it will help the team.”
Pujara had exhibited a great deal of patience during the three-match Test series against South Africa earlier this year. In fact, it was his first innings 50 off 179 balls that laid the foundation for India’s historic 63-run victory over the Proteas in the third Test at Wanderers.
Talking about the Johannesburg innings, he said: “It was one of the toughest pitches I have played on. Even the scorecard suggested that. It was a pitch very difficult to score runs on. I took a lot of time to get off the mark. There was enough movement and deviation, especially the first couple of hours, really challenging. You always feel you are never set.”
Despite toiling hard to remove the shine of the new ball, Pujara didn’t manage to amass big scores against South Africa. On being asked if the Proteas tour could’ve gone better for him, he said: “Could have been better. I was batting well. The way I was batting in the last Test, I was satisfied. In the first Test, I got a really good ball. Could not have done much about it.”
“I thought we played good cricket, competed really well. It was a good series. It was a series that gave us a lot of confidence as a team. We learnt many things, especially, the most important thing was the way we competed. We played as a team. Even individually, I was batting well. Sometimes you will not get big scores all the time, even a fifty on challenging pitch is equal to scoring a hundred,” he concluded.