Ranji Trophy: The effect of Cheteshwar Pujara

Saurashtra coach Sitanshu Kotak doesn’t mind if Pujara gets out early, but his presence is a must; a learning curve for young players.

Pujara's presence in the Saurashtra team during the semis is a great motivator for the youngsters in the team.   -  Vivek Bendre

As Cheteshwar Pujara chased and caught a high-flying cherry while practising at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Wednesday, Saurashtra coach Sitanshu Kotak praised him from a distance. Even though he is a star back from a triumphant tour of Australia, the coach-player relationship hasn’t changed in years.

On the eve of the crucial Ranji Trophy semifinal against Karnataka that starts on Thursday, Kotak stressed on the importance of Pujara in a young domestic side.

“When Pujara is in your team, he may get out on a first ball or 10 runs. But all in all, the opposition and our side will [always] be aware that he is a kind of a player who, if allowed to settle down, can go from 100 to 150 to 200,” Kotak highlighted that fear factor.

Pujara with Saurashtra's captain Jayadev Unadkat during the net sessions.   -  Sudhakara Jain

 

Pujara also lessens a bit of his load. He is that approachable senior for young guns such as Harvik Desai and Snell Patel. “Other players also learn from him while batting [together in the middle].  He knows what to say to other batsmen. In the middle, it makes a huge impact. We would feel the confidence that he is there but that doesn’t mean we put him under burden.

Read: All eyes on Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal in clash of heavyweights

“We were never desperate to win. We knew whatever situation comes, with the experience of Jaydev [Unadkat] and Pujara, it is a matured side. In the past, we have done well without them also. We were always a good side, but that experience and maturity around makes a huge impact,” he added.

The Saurashtra batting department has fairly done well with runs coming from No 1 to No 9. Dharmendrasinh Jadeja smashed two fifties batting at No 8 and No 9 on two instances. “Our team has not been like only two players chipping in. But Jaydev and Pujara do have an impact. The other players have not gone through tough situations like they have,” reasoned Kotak.

Talking of Mayank Agarwal's likely inclusion in the Karnataka playing XI, he said, "The bowlers have an idea where to bowl to him. We try to play to our strengths and maintain discipline. I don't think we need any separate plan if Mayank is playing for them."