Truth, they say, is a battle of perceptions. And, Cheteshwar Pujara is someone who has yet to come up trumps on that front. Why else is he warming the couch at home when his city, Rajkot, is celebrating the early success of Gujarat Lions?
“It’s something I can’t do much about. I thought one of the franchises would pick me. But, even Gujarat didn’t,” the 28-year-old tells Sportstar in an exclusive chat at his plush three-storey mansion in the city’s Ayodha Nagar locality.
Pujara then counters his helplessness with facts. “I had a decent run in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (the BCCI’s inter-state T20 tournament). We (Saurashtra) missed out on a place in the knockout round only because of a slightly poor run-rate. But I did well,” he says. That’s true. With 232 runs in six outings, Pujara was in some form. He even had three fifties to show for his efforts.
When I go through a rough patch in Test cricket, I go back to domestic cricket. Then, they say, ‘Well, he is the king of domestic cricket, so what’s the big deal (in scoring runs here)?’. However, the others have the option of going back and scoring in ODIs or T20 Internationals. And, when they do well there (their setbacks in Test cricket are forgotten).
Back to the perception battle, Pujara believes that his India mates get away with flop shows because they have other avenues to fall back on. “Look, I still average over 50 (54.12 to be precise) in List A cricket. But I have played just five ODIs and not a single T20 International. So, when I go through a rough patch in Test cricket, I go back to domestic cricket. Then, they say, ‘Well, he is the king of domestic cricket, so what’s the big deal (in scoring runs here)?’. However, the others have the option of going back and scoring in ODIs or T20 Internationals. And, when they do well there (their setbacks in Test cricket are forgotten).”
Pujara reckons he has got a raw deal as far as limited-overs cricket is concerned. Has it got to do with his style, approach, lack of flamboyance and so on? He doesn’t think so. “You don’t need to be attractive while scoring runs. What matters is the score. I look at myself performing the role of a Joe Root or a Kane Williamson. They never start things off in a flashy manner. I have a similar role. I can play that role in ODI and Twenty20 cricket. I am not trying to compare myself with them, but the technique and style is similar. I want to improve. I can’t be like a Chris Gayle or a Virender Sehwag. All I am saying is judge me once I have played a fair number of games in these formats,” he pleads.
A spiritual person, Pujara is looking forward to the upcoming season in which Team India is set to play more than a dozen Test matches. “I want to improve. I want to win matches for the country. Everything will fall into place then. I’ll wait for my chance. I know it will come,” he says. The smile is as unmistakeable as it is innocent.
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