Cheteshwar Pujara: Patience comes with psychological energy and years of persistent onerous work

Cheteshwar Pujara has developed a popularity as a tough-as-nails batter in his 12-year journey with the Indian group – as a batter able to take blows after blows on his physique, as a batter able to defend and go away endlessly, if wanted, as a batter who can put on down opponents in a battle of attrition. He referred to the significance of psychological toughness quite a few instances throughout his interplay with the media on the Arun Jaitley stadium in New Delhi when reflecting on the qualities which have helped him carve out a particular place for himself within the annals of Indian cricket.

Pujara revealed that his father, Pujara senior (Arvind Pujara), who mentored and handheld him in his preliminary years in cricket, could be on the venue to witness him enjoying the a hundredth Test of his profession on the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds on Friday.

“It means a lot to me and even to my family. My father has played a very important role in my cricketing journey. He is someone who has coached me since my childhood. So, he’s very excited. He’s going to be here tomorrow (Friday). Even my wife has been very supportive. In a cricketer’s life, family support is very important. I’m very thankful to my family, my friends, and the coaches I have worked with for over a while. They’ve played an important role in my cricketing career,” Pujara stated.

Elated that he was at reaching the landmark, Pujara clarified that enjoying 100 Test matches was by no means a goal of his when he began enjoying Test cricket.

“When I started playing cricket and made my debut, I never thought about playing 100 Test matches. For me, it’s always about being in the present and not thinking too far ahead. For me, it was just the last game when I thought probably before this series started – that’s when I realised that I would be playing my 100th Test match. In a career, you always go through ups and downs. You have to fight through those periods, but for me, I never thought I would play 100 Test matches. I have always been a player who wants to do well in every Test match and Test series,” he defined.

Amidst T20 leagues and white-ball cricket in every single place, Pujara these days has to bide his time to get some Test matches to play. The batter wasn’t an enormous success within the IPL, and for higher or for worse, ended up being pigeonholed as a Test-only middle-order batter. Playing only one format has its challenges, confessed Pujara. Upon being omitted for the Test sequence towards Sri Lanka early final yr, he determined to not throw his hat within the IPL public sale and as an alternative play county cricket for Sussex. The county stint was phenomenal for him as he scored 1094 runs at a median of 109.40 with 5 centuries. It enabled him to regain his middle-order spot within the Indian line-up on the one-off Test within the U.Ok. in July.

“It is challenging. When you look at the current Test schedules, on average, we play about nine Test matches. When you play one series and go back home, unless we are playing first-class cricket, we’re not in touch with the game. Sometimes, we’re just sitting at home and watching cricket on TV. So that’s the most important time for a Test cricketer to keep challenging yourself, keep training, and practise, although you’re not looking forward to any particular series in one or two months. And I felt, especially during COVID times, when you were not even getting to play first-class cricket, that was the most challenging time as a Test cricketer. Because I was just sitting at home, practising, and waiting for some Test matches to happen. So, yes, for a Test cricketer, it is important to play first-class cricket and be in touch with the game; it is challenging if you’re a one-format player, but you need to motivate yourself, you need to tell yourself that you still have to be prepared for the Test matches coming.”

And given the surfeit of white-ball matches and its impression on cricket general, Pujara’s batting model through the years has been judged, at instances, by some as missing selection. Pujara stated he wasn’t able to abandon his model developed by years of moulding; as an alternative, he turned ready so as to add new photographs into his repertoire and to attempt to transfer issues together with the bat. He referred to this adaptation course of as “fine-tuning.”

“The most important part is you need to be mentally strong. You need to believe in yourself. You should know your strength as a player. And that was something that I backed throughout my career. That is something that has given me success. I knew that if I had success in the first five-seven years because of what I had done, I can’t change my game. Yes, you can always fine-tune, you can always add a few shots to your game. But you can’t change entirely because other players play white-ball cricket, and their style of play is slightly different. So one has to understand that. Every player has their style. The most important thing I have learned over time is that one needs to stick to their strengths. One needs to back themselves. But at the same time, as a cricketer, you always try and improve, and that’s what I have done. I have added a few shots in my game which has helped me succeed in the last couple of years. So you always need to add a few shots and continue growing as a cricketer,” he stated.

‘Important to shut outside noise’

Pujara mirrored on the qualities that helped him succeed on the highest stage for a few years: “[R.] Ashwin has recently spoken about me being very stubborn. Sometimes I feel that as long as you stick to your methods, as long as you’re confident about your game, I feel one has to be disciplined to be successful in the Test format. I have done that for a while. I have certain routines. I pay a lot of attention to my fitness, and apart from that, I do a little bit of meditation, yoga, and pranayam, which has helped me immensely to be present and not think about the outside noise. It’s important to shut down the outside noise. It’s easy to say that one has to shut it down. But to do that, you have to be mentally strong. Sometimes we have to detach ourselves from what has been spoken outside. I try and detach myself from social media, whether it’s news media, or TV media, even if it’s positive. Sometimes you just need to focus on the things which you can control. And, then, try and get better as a cricketer. So, that has helped me immensely.

“Patience doesn’t come on its own. For that, you need mental strength. You have to practise well. Preparation is a big part of it as well. I scored runs in first-class cricket. I developed a lot of patience there. It doesn’t develop overnight. The discipline I was talking about is not for a period of just a few days, but the discipline that you develop in the entire year. Only after that do you develop patience. Hard work over a period of time is important. You need to back your game, and that discipline, routine and hard work over many years enables you to develop patience. If you focus on your ability and your game, and if you’re confident in your game, you succeed or fail. If you are persistent enough, you will eventually succeed.”

Australia has been a particular opponent for Pujara. Four of the 5 innings he listed as his most memorable have been towards Australia – his debut innings of 72 in Bengaluru, his 92 on the identical venue in 2017, his 123 at Adelaide in 2018, and his 56 on the Gabba in 2020-21. His innings of 153 towards South Africa in Johannesburg was additionally in his high 5.

“[Australia has] a good fighting spirit. No matter what the situation of the game is, they will always challenge you as an opponent. Whenever I walk in to bat, I never get free runs, I never get easy runs. I always have to work my way out. I have to work hard to score those runs. And they play as a unit. They’re always vocal, even on the field. So there’s a little bit of banter going on, and sometimes that motivates me a little more because I’m not someone who will try and talk back at them, but the best thing that you can do as a cricketer is to score runs and let the bat do the talking. So yes, they have been a challenging opposition. I have had success, but we always enjoy this challenge.”

So what modifications does he see having made in himself as a cricketer and as an individual in these 12 years?

“I’m a little more open-minded over now. I have learned that one has to be a little flexible to adapt to different situations, try and add a few more shots and be open to changes in your game and your technique. And as a person, I don’t think there’s a lot that has changed. I’m still the same Cheteshwar that people know, if you speak to some of the team-mates, if you speak to people who know me, I’m still the same person. I don’t think you need to change as a person as long as you are a good human being. So I always try and do that,” Pujara replied in his typical understated manner.

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