Mayank, Pujara ready for Ranji face-off

The India internationals embraced each other before the training session of their respective sides, Karnataka and Saurashtra, ahead of the Ranji Trophy semifinal.

India teammates Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara shake hands ahead of their clash in the Ranji Trophy this week.   -  SUDHAKARA JAIN

 

Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara embraced warmly when the latter arrived at the KSCA-B ground here for training. They were team-mates less than a fortnight ago but later this week will be on opposite sides as Karnataka takes on Saurashtra in the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy. “It is not strange. That is the exact thing I told him, that we will be on opposite sides. It should be a good contest,” said Agarwal.

Karnataka would not obsess over Pujara, he added. “To be honest, he is an important wicket, but so are the rest. You have to take 10 wickets and not just one, and we are focusing on everybody equally.”

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Agarwal missed Karnataka's quarterfinal victory over Rajasthan with a sore thumb but he is back in the squad now, having recovered fully. Playing a Ranji Trophy game as an India international — for the first time — would not make any difference, he felt. “For me it is just the same as before. Nothing changes. Preparation remains the same whether you have played for India or not. Obviously, you will have some confidence under your belt. Also, you have a bit more experience so that is something you can carry with you.”

Agarwal was full of praise for the likes of D. Nischal and K.V. Siddharth, who had delivered for Karnataka despite their relative lack of experience. “To be playing in the semifinals while we are transitioning is just testimony to how much effort they are putting in,” he said. “It is not easy to step up in the first season (in Siddharth's case) and score runs. We, as a team, are really proud of them. There is something for us to learn in that as well.”

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Agarwal may not have been part of the Karnataka squad for the previous game but he was in attendance, watching the action from the sidelines at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. “It means a lot to me,” he said. “The state has given you a lot of opportunities and facilities and whatever you do, you have to come back and play for the state and put in the same effort you did before you went to play for the country.”