There was a singular moment during Cheteshwar Pujara’s press conference when he mentioned about his team-mates telling him that the hundred in the first Test in progress here, was one of his best. An Australian journalist cheekily asked him: “Did they call you ‘Steve’?” Pujara grinned, his eyes crinkled and feeling shy about being compared to Steve Waugh, he said: “I would like to be called as Pujara.”
It also revealed that he is comfortable in his own skin. “It is one of my top innings in Test cricket. I could say top-five,” India’s centurion said here on Thursday evening. “The top-order made mistakes but they will learn. As far as my innings is concerned, I had prepared well and overall I have the experience of first-class and Test cricket and that came in handy,” he added.
Did the heat prove cumbersome? “It was tough but I was set and I knew I could play my shots, especially when we lost the seventh wicket. Ash (Ashwin) and I were having a good partnership but once we lost Ash, I had to accelerate. I knew what shots I could play on that wicket because I had batted for two sessions,” Pujara replied.
India’s number-three batsman lauded the Australian bowlers and said that 250 so far is a “decent total” on a pitch that “wasn’t easy to bat on.” “The odd ball is skidding and the odd ball is holding a bit more from the grass,” Pujara explained.
Cheteshwar Pujara (left) and R. Ashwin (right) put on 62 runs for the seventh wicket. Pujara admitted he had to accelerate after Ashwin’s dismissal. Photo: AFP
And without rancour, Pujara drew attention to the insinuation about him only flourishing in India: “People have always said that I have scored more runs in India but at the same time, you also need to look at the number of matches we play in India. If we have played a number of matches in India, obviously I will score runs there. At times, I have had a bad phase playing overseas but I still feel very confident about playing in different conditions. Playing county cricket has helped me a lot.”
And did the Aussies sledge? “When I am batting and the opposition is trying to sledge me, I am not bothered about it because my focus is always on my batting and sometimes I do get motivated if they try to sledge me,” Pujara said and with a disarming smile, walked away from the dais.