Cheteshwar Pujara has admitted he regrets playing the pull shot that brought about his dismissal in the second Test against New Zealand in Christchurch. India had three batting collapses in the Test series in New Zealand which they lost 0-2, the most disappointing being the first innings of the second Test, where India, from 194/4, were bowled out for 242. Also Read - Cheteshwar Pujara's Deal With Gloucestershire Called Off Due to Coronavirus Pandemic
Prithvi Shaw, Hanuma Vihari and Pujara had struck half-centuries in that innings, but it was the 31-year-old’s uncharacteristic dismissal which caught attention. Pujara played a reckless pull shot off Kyle Jamieson as the ball took the top edge and landed in BJ Watling’s gloves. It triggered the slide and India thwarted the advantage by losing six for 48. Also Read - Don't Think I Ever Got Carried Away: Prithvi Shaw
“For me, the biggest regret is the shot that I played during the second Test where I tried to pull. I don’t usually. I never play that kind of a shot. It happened instinctively. I still rue it, I wonder how it happened. Once I am set, I never give my wicket away,” Pujara told The Indian Express after Saurashtra lifted the Ranji Trophy for the first time. Also Read - Human Lives More Important Than Any Sport, we Have to Fight This Together: Cheteshwar Pujara
Pujara is as old school as it can get, a classic Test batsman. To the younger generation, Pujara is almost a curiosity. As the game moves more and more towards T20, which is the modern saviour, the world resilience starts to go out as there is none of it left. There is no ego in his batting as he goes about his business. He will grind the bowlers, wear them out, and hence, he is known as India’s Test specialist.
“I agree. But the young generation does understand my game. Then, Test matches are getting fewer day by day, there are more white-ball games happening. So they won’t copy my style because my batting approach suits Test cricket (more). It’s not that I cannot change gears, I can play in shorter formats too. Many people have not seen me bat in white-ball cricket on TV. I know I take some time (to get in) but that’s the way I have been taught when growing up.
Time and again, Pujara has been garnered unwanted attention for his slow strike-rate. Be it Ian Chappell’s concern about him needing to be careful he doesn’t slip into net-practice more, or skipper Virat Kohli’s assessment that his batsmen need not be overcautious while batting. But it doesn’t bother him. After all, it was on the basis of the same technique that Pujara peeled off three centuries during as India won the 2018-19 Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2-1.
“In the first innings, I took some 200-odd balls to score 60 something but my teammates and I knew how tough the wicket was. It was a final and there was a responsibility on my shoulders,” Pujara said.
“There is nothing wrong with batting slowly if the situation depends. I have to keep my ego behind, the ego of me being an international batsman and facing some bowlers who bowl at 110 kmph. If the situation is not easy and I know I can’t play my shots, then I will not. Game changes as per the pitch. Like in New Zealand, where the pitches were more challenging.”
At the end of the day, Pujara revels in the honour of being a classical Test batsman in today’s T20 era and admits he gets immense joy when people appreciate him for his craft.
“When I meet them I feel happy. Things changed after the Australia series. The other day, when I was having dinner in a Mumbai suburb, an old couple told me that after Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath they watch Test matches only because of me,” he said.
“The other day, someone told me that people follow ODIs and T20s but thanks for keeping Test cricket alive. I’m still that classical player they are looking for in Test cricket. So these words make me happy. It keeps me motivated, it feels, nahi koi toh dekh raha hai (At least somebody is watching).”