Southampton, England: If India goes on to win the inaugural World Test Championship title, it could prove to be the watershed moment for the revival of the longest format just like the 2007 World T20 triumph did for the popularity of the shortest format, feels Cheteshwar Pujara.
One of the shining products of the traditional format, Pujara made no bones in admitting that playing the WTC final against New Zealand is a “big deal” for him even though he would try to treat it as another game of cricket.
“Yes, of course, I think Test cricket needs to survive and with this WTC Final, it will definitely help,” Pujara said during the virtual media conference on Tuesday when asked about the epic World T20 victory of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men in South Africa back in 2007.
“If we win, more young players in India will want to play Test cricket. And overall, even across the world, Test cricket needs to survive and this is a very good way to do it, having this WTC,” said India’s dependable No 3.
On a personal note, it’s the hard work of two years that has borne fruit and the team is within the distance of an ultimate triumph.
“Personally, it means a lot as I play just one format (Tests). This is the first time we are playing this WTC Final. As a team, we have worked hard over a period of time. You have to win so many series away and at home. To be at the top, it does require a lot of hard work. It’s like a World Cup final in any other format.
“This is the first time in Test format, but it’s very similar to playing a World Cup final in ODI or T20. As a team we are looking forward to the final,” he said.
Pujara, just like his colleague Ravichandran Ashwin, agreed that New Zealand will have an advantage going into the final with two Test series against England providing them the right preparation.
“Well, it is (advantage New Zealand). But this is something which we can’t control. It’s been challenging times all over the world because of the pandemic. You can’t have all the luxuries of having extra time for preparation.
“The game is still going on, that’s the most important part. For all of us, we are playing the final which is very important. Even if preparation time is less, just maybe it’s little bit of a disadvantage for us but if you are ready for the challenge, even in not favourable circumstances, you still want to do well,” Pujara, who has 6000 plus runs in Tests, said.
Pujara said during the intra-squad simulation match, most of the bowlers aimed at upping their workload after nearly three weeks of quarantine. The batsmen also had centre wicket match situation as well as net training during each of the days.
“It’s getting back into the rhythm for both batters and bowlers. We have been in quarantine but we started our training and practice. So when we were out there in the middle we wanted to make the most out of it. We also had some practice wickets available even during the practice games.
“When you are in the middle, you want to make sure that the things which you’ve been working on in the nets should come along. Even for the bowlers, to get used to the workload, have 14-15 overs in the entire game which is very important preparing for the final.”
The batsmen were focussing on leaving the swinging deliveries early and intent on playing shots which they initially missed out.
“For batters, it’s about spending some time in the middle, having that discipline of leaving the balls, playing the shots which you normally play at the nets. So, getting used to the actual game, basically having that match scenario is very important for the team.”
A team player to the core, Pujara lauded the pace quartet comprising Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, who now have Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur for company. Thakur though is not part of final 15.
“The reason we’ve reached the final is because of our bowling. They have been able to take 20 wickets and they have won so many Tests for us over a period of time.
“Our pacers are ready for this challenge,” Pujara said.
With PTI inputs.