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Cheteshwar Pujara: Would like to open innings with Virender Sehwag

Cheteshwar Pujara: Would like to open innings with Virender Sehwag
Cheteshwar Pujara is looking ahead to the Kings XI Punjab camp practice, which will allow him to prepare before IPL 7 starts © AFP

He has been India’s batting mainstay in Tests for a while now and has been tipped as the ideal replacement to Rahul Dravid. But Cheteshwar Pujara‘s focus has briefly shifted to limited overs formats. After being part of India’s One-Day International squad, Pujara played for Saurashtra in the West Zone qualifiers of  the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy and even got a half-century against Mumbai. Pujara shares his thoughts on the upcoming IPL season with Kings XI Punjab and other aspects.

After a long international schedule how was it playing T20 at the domestic level?

I think before IPL it’s a good preparation. The wickets are a little challenging, it’s not easy to score runs. Still I managed a good innings yesterday but unfortunately we lost all our matches. We did decently in the four day format, but Saurashtra has an inexperienced T20 squad and we’ve not played too many T20 games. So it’s a learning process for us.

Your reaction on playing for a different franchisee — Kings XI Punjab?

Yes, I am looking forward to a good season with them. We have a very good team on paper. But it’s important to execute our plans well. The right players are there, we’ve Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell and so many others, still we need to stick as a unit and perform. We have a camp coming up, so there is some time to prepare before the tournament starts. The first set of camp will be in Chandigarh and the well have some days of practice in Dubai also.

In your last season with Royal Challengers Bangalore, you hardly found a place in the team with big players in the squad. So are you keen on playing more matches representing Punjab?

When you have big players like Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli doing well, it is tough for someone like me with less experience in ODIs and T20s to make it in to the playing XI. But with a team like Kings XI Punjab, I might get more opportunities to play the matches. My preparations have been good. I have been part of India’s ODI squad as well, I’ve been speaking to the coach and the team management about how to go about improving as an ODI player.

For someone like you who has excelled in Test cricket, what was the adjustments you had to make while playing 50-over format and T20s?

In ODIs, there is not a major change especially with two new balls, you still look to play proper cricketing shots initially. And once the ball gets old you start accelerating. Being a top order batsman, I don’t think I need to make too many adjustments while playing ODI format. In fact my strike rate has also improved in the Test format. Once I cross 50 runs I look to accelerate. Talking about T20s, there is no time to set, so you look to hit the boundaries from the first ball itself. And you have to be innovative as well. I was trying to do that against Zaheer Khan in the previous match. When he was trying to bowl a yorker, I was walking across and converting it in to a full-toss. I have worked on these things in the nets and it has paid off. I still need to improve a lot and make more adjustments to settle in the T20 format. I have always believed that in T20s, you have to be switched on right from the first ball.

You are opening the batting here and in Tests you come one down. Is that a particular batting position you prefer?

I like batting in the top order. I prefer to open the innings. Given an opportunity, I would like to open the innings definitely. But if I am batting anywhere between 1 and 4, I’m happy with that.

Looking forward to opening with Virender Sehwag in the IPL?

It will be a lot easier for me to bat with Virender Sehwag. He is the kind of batsman who can change the game easily. He can score a hundred in T20s as well. If I am opening the innings with him it will be a lot easier for me.

Relaxed that Mitchell Johnson is in your side and you’ll be facing him only in the nets?

Things will be a different in T20s. He can be a strike bowler for us with the fine rhythm he is in since last six to eight months. The other teams might be worried and look to play him out than to score too many runs against him.

After the IPL, there is the all important tour to England. Any plans how you will be preparing for the tour?

I can’t speak much about future tours as per the BCCI’s orders. Yeah it will be an important tour for all of us in the team. Whenever you go abroad, there are a lot of challenges but as a cricketer you like challenges in your life, you just don’t want a cakewalk in life. If you want to grow as a good cricketer, then obviously challenging conditions are the one where you look to perform well. And after playing couple of overseas tour in South Africa and New Zealand, I feel those are challenging conditions. If you have a good technique then you can survive the.

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