After the retirement of the fab four of Indian cricket—Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, the batting of the team has been heavily dependent on Cheteshwar Pujara in Test cricket. And more often than not, Pujara has been able to deliver and has played match-winning knocks for the team. And the right-handed batsman will definitely be a key to India’s success in the upcoming five-Test series against England starting August 1.
However, Pujara’s record in England has not been impressive. He averages mere 22 in the five Tests which he has played in England- which is very less to his overall Test average of 50.51. That 2014 series also included a 117-ball 28 at Lord’s in which his strike rate was just 23.93, his worst rate in an innings of 25-plus.
The right-handed batsman, arguably India’s most dependable number three when it comes to Test cricket, spent the last few months in England where he turned up for county side Yorkshire after India’s one-off Test against Afghanistan where he scored 35 in the lone inning India played. However, he failed to come out with an impressive performance as in six county matches, he managed to score only 172 runs at a poor average of 14.33. His highest score was just 41.
In the lone tour game against Essex, he failed again as he could manage to score only one run before being dismissed at Chelmsford.
However, despite his recent slump in form, the Rajkot batsman feels there’s no pressure on him and he doesn’t feel that his place in the Test team is uncertain. In fact, Pujara states he does not need to prove anything to those outside the dressing room.
In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, Pujara said that his poor form in England doesn’t reflect on his mindset.
“Sometimes you do fail, but you don’t need to put a lot of pressure on yourself as an individual. I feel I don’t have to prove myself to anyone other than myself. And I know that I have scored enough runs there in county cricket and even for India A,” he said.
He said that he has “performed enough in 2017-18 and obviously” he deserves his place. “I have offered enough to the team. My team-mates and team management have acknowledged that, so there is no pressure. I just need to focus on what I need to do,” he insisted.
The right-handed batsman further pointed out the fact that conditions play a huge role and that’s why the average score of a batsman in England is different from those in Australia, South Africa, and India.
“It is not [always] about scoring big hundreds. I would obviously love to score as many runs as possible, but if you look at the average score in England, it is not like India, where you can get three or four centuries in a five-Test series. [In England] even the top players have about two centuries and few fifties. So the average score is different from when you play in Australia, South Africa, and even in India,” he said.
“You need to accept one thing: the pitches will be challenging. There might be times when you will get out. You need to make adjustments in your technique, in your temperament, whatever needs to be done to be even more successful,” he added.
Speaking about the 2014 England tour in which India lost the five-Test series, Pujara said he was putting too much pressure on himself to score big hundreds or double hundreds. “I was putting too much pressure on myself. After scoring many double-hundreds, especially early in my career, I thought I should be able to get a double-hundred even in England. But that is not the mindset you should have.”
“As a batsman, you should just look to play the situation, set up a good total for the team, so your focus is not about scoring runs for yourself. When you are looking at the big picture, when you are looking at putting up a decent total, your focus starts shifting to something else. That should be the right mindset. When I look at that target, I know that if I can hang around, if I can score some runs, then ultimately the team will benefit,” he added.