Pujara: Ranji Trophy performance needs importance

Cheteshwar Pujara, who won his maiden Ranji title, also batted for Jaydev Unadkat’s selection in the Indian team.

India international Cheteshwar Pujara, who won his maiden Ranji Trophy title on Friday, batted for Jaydev Unadkat’s selection in Team India.   -  VIJAY SONEJI

India international Cheteshwar Pujara, who won his maiden Ranji Trophy title on Friday, batted for Jaydev Unadkat’s selection in Team India. The left-arm fast bowler finished as the top wicket-taker with 67 wickets in the season.

“Jaydev has bowled exceptionally well throughout the season. If someone takes 67 wickets in a season, I don't think there is anyone who can perform better in the Ranji Trophy. There has to be a lot of importance to Ranji performances to get picked for the Indian team.

“Jaydev was modest when he said he would not be thinking about the Indian call but I will be surprised if he is not picked in the Indian team,” Pujara said after Saurashtra’s win over Bengal at the SCA stadium in Khandheri.

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Special win for ‘father’

The India No. 3 considers the series win in Australia as one of the best victories in his career but the Ranji title is no less. “The nation comes first and I can’t compare the two but this is the moment we have been waiting for. Whenever we have lost the finals [four times], we have been disappointed.

“For the entire team and the region, this is special and it also means a lot for my father, who has played the Ranji Trophy for Saurashtra in the past. And he was present today. For generations to follow, it will give them belief. The youngsters will get inspiration out of this and the entire cricketing structure will improve. We have started a process and it will continue. It is about performing consistently season after season,” Pujara added.

The health issue

Not in the pink of health after returning from New Zealand, Pujara had to bat down the order in the final. On a slow wicket, the right-hander scored 66 off 237 balls with Arpit Vasavada, who scored a hundred. 

"It was very tough for me. I’m someone who likes to lead from the front, but here, I had to bat lower down the order. It was frustrating for me on day one. On this wicket, I thought if I can walk in early, I can start dominating later," he said.

 “This was probably one of my slowest innings in the domestic circuit. Usually, I don’t think of strike-rate or whatever it is, this was a tough pitch. The ball wasn’t coming on nicely. I needed to put my head down and play a crucial knock, ultimately we needed a good total on the board.

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"The first day is the best time to bat, but I’m happy that I could play my part. I wanted to respect the conditions. Day two when I walked in, it was not easy. I felt a blackout, so it was tough. But you have to be motivated and lead from the front, set a good example. We had to set a platform for the bowlers, and that partnership with Arpit gave us a lot of confidence. Once you had 350 plus, we knew with our remarkable bowling attack, we were in a good position." 

Pujara did not field during Bengal's innings. If he gains full fitness, he will be part of the Irani Trophy that starts from March 18. 

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