There are times when balls facing are far more important than runs scored and the recent tour of Australia was all about that for Indian test battery Cheteshwar Pujara, who think the “strike-rate talk” is overrated. Pujara had accumulated many more runs (521 at 41.41 strike rate and three hundred) in his performance as a player of the series to secure a historic win in Australia two seasons ago, but given the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ of the recent showdown that just passed, he judges his effort (271 out of 29.20 and three half centuries) as equally special.
“Both tours were fantastic for the team and personally I did well on both tours, but the conditions were completely different. This time I started after a long time, almost eight months (due to COVID-19), there were no first ones either. class games, ” Pujara told PTI before entering the bio bubble for the upcoming home series against England.
The 31-year-old stood like a rock through the series, literally in the final Test in Brisbane, where he received multiple blows to the body to keep a relentless Australian attack at bay.
“In terms of preparation, it was not easy at all and the Australian team had a solid game plan for each of us. It took some time to get back into the rhythm, but luckily it all went well in the end.
“In terms of numbers, it may not look like a very, very good run to me, but if you look at the fields, there weren’t many points scored this time. It was definitely more challenging than last time.”
The 81 Test veteran said the balls from 928 to 1258 were more important than the points scored two years ago, given the challenging pace attack, the nature of the throws, and the barrage of injuries the Indian team suffered during the four competitions.
“It is very difficult to compare both tours, but this one is a bit more special given that we had a weaker team with so many youngsters. But I wouldn’t say this is the only best series that I am part of.
“Even the last series in Australia were tough and also the home series in 2017-18 was one of the toughest that I took part in.”
As is often the case, Pujara’s success rate was a constant topic of debate as he beat the trio of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, and Mitchell Starc to make things a little easier for the batsman on the other end.
“There are times when the success rate hardly matters. Every batter has a role to play. The team management fully understands that. Whether it was Ravi bhai (coach) or Vicky bhai (batting coach) or Ajinkya, they just told me to keep hitting the way i hit.
“The batting coach also said that Aussies weren’t giving anything away. So it wasn’t that I wasn’t hitting well, they barely bowled loose balls.
“I had to take extra time to score those runs. I always saw the bigger picture because I knew it would be difficult for the bowlers to run through the side when I was on the other side.”
For someone who takes the time to speed up, Pujara feels that the success rate will improve if one spends time in the middle.
“Even my at bat changes depending on the situation. I don’t just play one way. There are times when throws are good to serve, then I will keep playing.
“You can’t just hit one way. It’s good to have players like Rohit and Rishabh on the other side, so I just have to hit like I do,” said the Rajkot-based cricketer, who only finished 11th. Indian cricketer who exceeded 6000 run in Tests during Australian series.
He is currently 10th on the list with 6111 runs at an average of 47.74.
“It’s a great feeling. Statistically it’s a good performance, but I still feel that there is still a lot to play and a lot to achieve.”
Pujara was hit several times by the Australian pacers on day five at the Gabba, with Hazlewood’s blow to his finger being the most painful.
“I am much better now. There are still bruises, but nothing serious. I am almost recovered,” said the gentle cricketer.
Speaking of playing in bio bubbles as the Australia tour was his first in a controlled environment, Pujara added: “It’s not easy, especially the quarantine, it’s the hardest for all the players where you can’t even meet .
“It’s not easy for guys who are used to touring either. Someone like me who lives a simple life, it’s still okay, but the way the players (who also played IPL) explained is anything but simple. . ”
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