Former Indian skipper, MS Dhoni will always be remembered for lifting every ICC trophy — World T20 in 2007, World Cup in 2011 and the Champions Trophy in 2013. But India’s Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara feels Dhoni the Test captain played a crucial role in laying the foundation stones for making this team under current captain Virat Kohli into the world beaters that they are.
On Saturday, Kohli has won the ICC Test Championship mace after the win in the Wanderers Test against South Africa meant that no team can move ahead of India in the Test rankings at the April 3 cut-off date. Pujara has recently become a father as his wife Puja gave birth to a baby girl on February 22. Soon he came back to cricket and had a conversation with the reporter of Cricketnext on various topics like Test series in South Africa, his decision to play for Yorkshire, India’s rise to the No.1 ranking in Tests and lots more.
Cheteshwar started bu describing Mahi’s contribution towards Indian cricket, he said, “To start with, it feels really good to retain the top spot in Test cricket and get the mace. It is something we as a team thrive to do and to be honest, be it under Dhoni or now under Kohli, the motive has always been to win Tests and not just in India, but also overseas. It is true that this team has done really well in Test cricket in the last two seasons, but to be fair, people tend to overlook Dhoni’s contribution as Test captain.”
He further added, “India became the No.1 Test team under him (in November 2009). India’s longest stint at the top in Test cricket was from November 2009 to August 2011 under Dhoni. Also, talking about the two captains is a bit unfair because Dhoni led for a while and Kohli has just about started off and settling down. Maybe we can do that in some time from now. But yes, it was a pleasure to play under Dhoni and it is no different to be led by Kohli.”
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While the scoreline suggests 2-1 in the favor of hosts, the three-match series against South Africa, Pujara reckons it was much closer than what the records shall suggest. He said, “Trust me, things would have looked very different had there been just a couple of partnerships. The team played some really good cricket and the bowlers were fantastic. We had them on the mat in Cape Town and again in Centurion, it was the batsmen who failed to stitch a partnership.”
Talking about the Centurion Test in which Cheteshwar was run-out in both the innings, he said, “Yes, it was not the best of ways to get out. But, you have to move on and think about the next game. It was the kind of wicket which I felt I could score on, but the unfortunate thing was to get run out. As a sportsman, I just put it behind and started preparing afresh for the third Test.”
In the third Test, Pujara showed immense grit as he took 53 balls score his first run. But he says that it was the need of the hour. He said, “Sometimes, you just have to grind it out and wait for the right balls. I was pleased with the effort I put in and I feel that the win on that wicket set the ball rolling for the rest of the ODI and T20I series. Wickets like those really make me want to pad up and hit the crease. Those are conditions wherein you need to be on the top of your game both mentally and physically. One good ball and you are back in the hut.”
Cheteshwar Pujara and his County stint
Elaborating a bit more about his upcoming county stint, Pujara said: “I am really looking forward to it. Playing county cricket means you prepare on wickets where every ball could be the last you face in an innings. The wickets are really challenging and I love challenges. County cricket has improved me as a player and I just want to score as many runs as possible for Yorkshire and prepare for the Test series against England and the road ahead.”
In County Championship, Pujara has scored 816 runs so far three fifties and as many centuries. So clearly, the team management couldn’t have expected for a better preparation ground for India’s most dependable Test batsman.