Cheteshwar Pujara was surprisingly left out from India’s playing XI for the first Test against England at Edgbaston. Under pressure to perform in the second Test at Lord’s, he was run out in the first innings for 1 while he made 17 runs in the second dig.
Things finally turned around for Pujara in the Nottingham Test as he played a gutsy knock of 72 in the second innings to help India set a mammoth target of 521 for England in the fourth innings.
For the first time in this Test series, almost all the Indian batsmen did their bit. As a result, India are firmly on the driver's seat. While KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan provided a solid start in both innings, captain Virat Kohli found support in both the innings as he scored 97 and 103.
Ajinkya Rahane scored 81 to share a 159-run stand with Kohli in the first innings whereas Pujara shared a 113-run partnership with the skipper in the second essay. The likes of Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya also played their part to extend India’s dominance.
Speaking at the end of third day's play, Pujara perfectly summed up the importance of collective effort in overseas games.
“When you are playing away from home, it’s not about scoring big hundreds. It is about having enough runs on the board, collectively. Maybe sometimes the openers (didn’t) score more than 30-40 runs, but they are quite valuable for the team. Personally, I always want to score a hundred in any game I play, but at the same time you have to be realistic,” Pujara told reporters.
When asked about the slow start in the morning session on Day 3, the Saurashtra batsman replied: “You just have to respect the conditions and the way they bowled. We had our game plan and stuck to it. Can’t reveal much about what our plan was, but I think we won that session.”
Pujara was delighted with Kohli’s second ton of the series and his 23rd overall in Test cricket.
“He batted brilliantly. He has been batting well since the first Test. He is in good touch and is making the most of it. Some shots which he is playing on this pitch are very difficult for any other batsman to execute,” he said.
Talking about the pressure he was going through after his omission at Edgbaston and his failure at Lord’s, Pujara said: “To be honest, there is always some pressure, especially when you have not scored too many runs. Even as a batting unit, before this Test, we hadn’t scored too many runs. It was important all our top-order started scoring runs, especially in this Test. The way our opening batsmen batted, lot of credit goes to them.”
“I’ve faced Anderson in the past. He’s a great bowler no doubt but facing him in 2014 in similar conditions has helped me. I knew what areas he bowls in and what should be my game plan. It’s always challenging to bat against him, but the way we had our partnership, especially in the first session, we knew what we wanted to do,” he explained.
Pujara concluded by saying that the batsmen need to have trust in their skill-set to score runs in the alien English conditions.
“You just need to trust your technique and your temperament, and be confident about how you know to play in such conditions. Everyone has a different technique; everyone has a way to play. We just need to play the way we know as a batsman,” he signed-off.