Pujara confident of doing well in T20 format

Cheteshwar Pujara, who has been in top form in first class cricket, has not been seen in the same light in the limited over formats, especially in the slam-bang T20 matches and did not play in the last two IPL editions.

Cheteshwar Pujara said that he's improved his strike rate and plays more shots in the shortest format of the game.   -  G.P. Sampath Kumar

Pujara batting kar raha tha toh koi tension ki baat hi nahi thi (There was nothing to worry about since Pujara was at the other end).

Wriddhiman Saha made this comment after marking his return to first-class cricket with a match-winning double hundred.

For the umpteenth time over the last decade, Cheteshwar Pujara held on to one end and enjoyed being in the backdrop with his batting partner hogging all the limelight.

However, Saha was no exception to any of his predecessors who value Pujara’s contribution at the other end.

At the start of the domestic season, Pujara wasn’t in the best of form. The lead-up to the Duleep Trophy in September had been far from ideal.

Last year started on a surprising note, with no IPL franchise — including the one from his hometown Rajkot — bidding for him in the players’ auction. Then came Pujara’s exclusion from the eleven, with then chief selector Sandeep Patil starting a debate over his ability to rotate the strike.

Some players would have wilted under such pressure. But the team stood behind Pujara and the champion batsman is on the verge of establishing the new high for a batsman in an Indian first-class season.

When asked about his fairytale run in 2016-17 — with the batsman having plundered 1,522 runs, including six hundreds, Pujara preferred to look ahead.

“I batted well against New Zealand and England, and in the Duleep Trophy and all the First Class games I have played, I did well,” Pujara said after leading Rest of India to the Irani Cup title, scoring 86 and an unbeaten 116.

“Moving into 2017, we have got a few domestic T20s lined up before we play a one-off Test against Bangladesh. I am looking forward to that. Definitely I want to make a mark in that particular format.

“I have done well in the DY Patil T20 tournament (in Mumbai in January) and got a hundred and two fifties. I am very confident that I can play well in other formats of the game.

“Moving ahead, we have five Tests, one against Bangladesh and four against Australia which will be crucial for the Indian team. We have been playing good cricket and it will be a challenging task for us.”

Pujara — along with opening batsman M. Vijay — is on the verge of being typecast as a Test specialist, having failed to capitalise on the limited opportunities he has received in ODIs.

However, he feels the ‘Test specialist’ tag is a mere perception and hopes to change it in the coming months.

“Time will come. I just will have to keep playing other formats and keep scoring runs and probably I will have to wait for my opportunity,” he said.

“I am improving, playing more shots and playing with a higher strike rate. So, probably, that’s just the tag, a perception that will change in time.”