Ranji Trophy: Pujara boost for Saurashtra in final against Bengal

With India taking on South Africa in a three-match ODI series next week, it is not clear whether Ravindra Jadeja will be available for the summit clash.

Cheteshwar Pujara's return will play on the opposition's mind, says Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Unadkat.   -  Vivek Bendre

As Saurashtra gears up for a Ranji Trophy final against Bengal, starting next Monday, it will be bolstered by the presence of Cheteshwar Pujara.

With India taking on South Africa in a three-match ODI series next week, it is not clear whether Ravindra Jadeja will be available for the summit clash.

However, Saurashtra captain, Jaydev Unadkat, confirmed that Pujara -- who was part of the Test team during India's tour of New Zealand -- will be available for the big game. “He will be back for the final. He cares as much for the team as much I do,” Unadkat said after winning the semifinal against Gujarat on Wednesday.

After guiding his team to an emphatic win, Unadkat revealed that he was in constant touch with Pujara over the last few days. “Last night when I spoke to him, he was boarding the flight from New Zealand. He told me that in case of any help, I should leave him a message and he would call back. He was also anxious about this game,” Unadkat said.

Unadkat, though, did not need to call him back. “I am sure he would be happy with our show, once he lands in India…”

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Pujara featured in the first-leg of the season before heading to New Zealand to join the national team. And in his absence, the team’s top-order has failed to fire. And Unadkat believes that now with his favourite ‘Chintu’ -- as Pujara is fondly referred to by his team-mates -- back for the final, it will be a benefit for the side.

“The one area (that we needed to look at) is already addressed, now that we have Cheteshwar back in the side. The top-order hasn’t been scoring. There is some inexperience in our top-order — Snell (Patel), who had a dream season last year, hasn’t been in form and that’s why, he is not in the team. Harvik (Desai) started well, but he isn’t in form now. I hope it eases out soon…”

“It’s just one game and we can’t rely on how players have fared in the season. With Cheteshwar back, it will play on their mind. Whenever Cheteshwar is around, our batting unit plays differently. They have that confidence and reliance when he is there,” the captain said.

Aware that Bengal will be a tough opponent, Unadkat agreed that Pujara’s presence will also sort of take the pressure off him. “It does help, for sure. He does help me out in the middle. He takes the pressure off, in situations like this,” the captain said, adding that he was happy to have managed his bowling and guide the side to a victory against Gujarat.

With the final set to played at home -- at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot -- Unadkat’s men are confident of breaking the final jinx.

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