first_imgCheteshwar Pujara is currently among the hottest players in Team India. In the day and age of Virat Kohli, Pujara has carved his own niche and is currently the leading run-scorer in Test cricket this year.In 11 Tests in 2017, Pujara has scored 1140 runs including four hundreds. The gutsy 202 against Australia in Ranchi was his highest in the calender year but there have been other vital contributions as well. Scores of 92 and 57 either side of that epic double hundred were perhaps among Pujara’s most vital knocks.Pujara has finished his international commitments in 2017 and he has now turned his focus to the tour of South Africa. India play their first Test in Cape Town from January 5 and rest assured, Pujara will be key to India’s success.In a free-wheeling chat with India Today, Pujara spoke on a range of issues including Kohli’s work ethics, the opportunity to do well in South Africa and the secret behind his intense concentration.Excerpts:Boria: Team India will bank on you in South Africa. Is that opportunity or pressure?Pujara: I think it’s a bit of both I would say because as an individual, I always feel that the team is in trouble, I lift up my game, I try to motivate myself, my concentration goes up. So, I always take it as an opportunity. But at the same time, there is a lot of pressure, I would agree to that because when you go abroad or try and bat in tough situations, you definitely have some pressure on you. But it is how you handle and that is the most important thing.advertisementBoria: You have toured South Africa on two previous occasions. What’s the difference this time?Pujara: I think the experience, which is the most important thing. I have been there in 2010, in 2013. So when I went there in 2010, obviously it was difficult and luckily, we had players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, all of them were there and I definitely spoke to many of them and that experience definitely helped me in 2013 and now we are going again in 2017-18. I think that experience will definitely help me this time.Boria: Has the county stint helped?Pujara: Yes it has definitely helped me. The thing is whatever we try in India, the kind of wickets we get in England or anywhere overseas, it is very difficult to replicate that in India. That is the reason I went there to play county cricket. When I was there, I played on different grounds — I played at Trent Bridge, I played at The Oval. Playing on different grounds and pitches in county cricket did help me. Talking about Peter Moose, I think he is one of the best coaches I have worked with. I got to know about his knowledge because he has worked with the England team. So it was really nice to know his knowledge and what he thought about my game and to speak to him for about a month’s time. To be with him, to know about county cricket and cricket across the globe was really nice. It did help me gain some experience and improve my technique.Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara Boria: What’s your secret to concentration?Pujara: When it comes to batting, I like to keep it very simple. The thing is it’s the practice and the preparation which goes behind (the scenes). For me personally, it’s hours and hours of practice which has helped me become a better player and sometimes you need to know the kind of wickets you are going to play on and prepare accordingly. It is the experience and practice that has helped me gain concentration.Boria: What is the preoperational difference between a tour of England and South Africa?Pujara: Yes, you do have to prepare differently. You try and play on bouncy pitches. You try and have different preparations and different kinds of practice before you go abroad.Boria: You scored a triple hundred at the age of 12. You play marathon innings for India now. What keeps you going?Pujara: I think it’s the hunger for runs and the love for the game that keeps me going and obviously,  you need to create that habit of scoring big runs. As you said, I scored my first triple hundred at the age of 12. At that time I didn’t know how I scored my triple hundred but after that, when I got into the Ranji team, I was initially getting out at 120-130 and with the team score being 350. We used to lose matches. Because of that, I got disappointed and I thought if I can score another hundred, the team might end up scoring 450-500 and that might help and we started winning games. So that is where my habit of scoring big runs came in and then I just started doing the same thing for India A team and then when I got into the Indian team, I always thought if I am a top order batsman I need to make sure I score runs and if I score a double hundred, the chances of the team losing is less.advertisementBoria: Does failure help a player get better?Pujara: Personally, I feel failure teaches you a lot and you always get better when you accept your failure and learn from it. I always believe failure teaches me more than success. When I failed in 2014, I did realise the areas to work on but at the same time, I was batting well. I spoke to legends of the game there and they told me I got out to good balls and then I still had to accept that I can fail at some stage. So I moved on, I still kept things simple and kept working on my game. So as long as you accept you failure, move on and try and notice a few things and try and make sure your weaknesses in the past are corrected, then move on.Boria: Virat Kohli says you’re the best Test batsman in the world. What do such words coming from the captain mean to you?Pujara: It means a lot. He is someone who has the best work ethics in the Indian team and may be across the globe. He is someone who has the best fitness, he is one of the best fielders in the world and when it comes to his batting, I don’t think I need to speak much because the number of runs he has scored, everyone knows. So when it comes from him it means a lot but at the same time, there is a lot to learn from it and I would especially like to mention his work ethics.Boria: Give us an insight into Kohli’s work ethicsPujara: The way he prepares himself, the number of hours he puts in for his fitness, in his fielding or in his batting, I think it is remarkable. I think it’s very difficult for any other player to be so consistent and still get up every single morning and do the same thing again and again.(Watch the full interview on India Today at 7:30 PM on Saturday)last_img

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