When Wasim Jaffer gave Cheteshwar Pujara tips on how to talk to the media

The media converged on Pujara in 2010 when he was chosen for the Indian team for a Test series against Australia.

Cheteshwar Pujara with Wasim Jaffer at a practice session ahead of the Ranji Trophy final in Nagpur in February, 2019.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

Prominent India players usually have to deal with the media carefully amidst incessant demand for their time. The craft has to be learned on the job as such attention isn’t around when players are building their careers in lesser-known tournaments.

Pujara was earmarked as an India prospect well before he made his Test debut against Australia in Bengaluru in October 2010, aged 22. He had been piling on the runs for Saurashtra and had already scored a triple century for his State side in a Ranji Trophy contest against Odisha (then Orissa) in the 2008-09 season.

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When the BCCI announced his inclusion in the Test squad for the series against Australia, Pujara was playing the JP Atray memorial tournament, a 50-over pre-season tournament in Chandigarh. Revisiting the occasion, Vivek Atray, the organiser of the tournament, said he was the sole focus for the media at the DAV School grounds, where he was playing.

“Cheteshwar Pujara played in our tournament the year he got selected for the Test match team. He was playing our tournament when the announcement came – this was in September, October - and the whole media converged on him. That match was played in a very small ground, in DAV School, normally we have the PCA Stadium and Panchkula but we had to book some matches in a school,” Atray said.

“So, he was there and I was there. I remember, Wasim Jaffer, the ex-India player, was playing for the opposite team, and he gave Pujara a few tips about how to talk to the media, to say certain things and not to say certain things. He gave him a kind of briefing before he addressed the media saying he was very happy about his selection,” he remembered.

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According to Atray, the JP Atray memorial tournament witnessed a lot of India players before they played for the country. Some, like Sourav Ganguly, chose to play the tournament after having played for India.

“Hundred or more India players have played in our tournament. Every year, there used to be about 10 or 12, on average: [Virender] Sehwag, [Gautam] Gambhir, Yuvraj [Singh], Harbhajan [Singh]at one time, and Rohit Sharma, Ganguly and [M. S.] Dhoni. Dhoni played before he played for India, but Ganguly and Rohit Sharma played much after playing for India. Ganguly played only once, of course. Wriddhiman Saha, Shikhar Dhawan and Ravindra Jadeja played for many years,” Atray said.

“We’re hoping that we will continue to have fringe Indian players and some Indian players to play in our tournament,” Atray said.

Pujara is now, of course, a bit of a veteran, having played 77 Tests, and presumably used to all the attention. Player of the series for India in its previous Test tour of Australia, Pujara will be expected to play a key role for the side when it travels to Australia later this year.

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