Cheteshwar Pujara was featuring in his 100th Test — against Australia in New Delhi — when Saurashtra defeated Bengal in Kolkata to claim its second Ranji Trophy title in three years.
Despite being busy with his international commitments, he kept an eye on how things panned out at the Eden Gardens as Jaydev Unadkat-led Saurashtra mauled Bengal yet again.
In a conversation with Sportstar, Pujara lists out the factors behind Saurashtra’s consistent performances in the Ranji Trophy over a decade.
Putting the team first: We have a group which is experienced. Most of the guys have been playing a lot of cricket over a period of time. The most important thing is the team environment. If you look at Saurashtra, we play as a team. Everyone wants to contribute to the team’s best interest. So, team is the priority rather than individual scores. Everyone wants to excel in their own department — be it batting or bowling — but collectively, everyone understands that we have to perform well. The most important part is, the team always comes first.
ALSO READ - Saurashtra has a golden generation of cricketers - Vasavada
The environment: In this set-up, there is a mix of experience and youth. There are young guys, who have come in and started performing well for Saurashtra. The young guys like Harvik Desai, Chetan Sakariya, Parth Bhut have been playing for nearly three seasons and they are maturing quickly. Then we have Jaydev Unadkat, Chirgag Jani, Sheldon Jackson, Arpit Vasavada, who have been playing for quite a while. So, we have the experience and youth and everyone is eager to learn and improve their game.
When you are in such an environment, your prime focus is cricket and you always want to do well for the team and get better. So, over a period of time, guys have improved a lot individually as well. As a team, we have been working a lot on fielding and the players also understand that and they are trying to improve on that front.
The all-round factor: We have a few good fast bowling all-rounders. Chirag Jani and Prerak Mankad have been integral part of the team. Even spinners like Dharmendrasinh Jadeja and Parth Bhut can bat. That helps. Arpit and Jaydev, obviously, are perfect examples of how they have led the team this season. You need X-factor but at the same time, the supporting group also plays a key role.
Keeping the core intact: If you want to continue playing first-class cricket over a period of time, you need to work on various aspects of your game. If you are a batter, you need to work on your technique. By that I don’t mean changing too much or thinking too much about technique, but it’s about the tactics. For an opener, it is about learning to play on seaming wickets. Sometimes you need to figure out what shots you play and how you counter spin or pace.
Similarly, our fast bowlers have learned how to bowl in the channel and in which areas to bowl on seaming tracks. On the turning track, even spinners have improved. They have learned about getting the control, they try to work on various aspects, talk to coaches, players.
Over a period of time, if you have a core group, you can keep interacting and get better. The youngsters are also maturing. There is motivation and the entire group has a fantastic work ethic, that’s the most important part.