MUMBAI: The year 2018 is going to be special for Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara. And that is not just because Team India will face a flurry of challenges this year and he’s best placed to overcome them, given his reputation in the longer format.
Pujara, who’ll turn 30 on January 25, and his wife Puja are expecting their first baby this year. Success at cricket, in whichever form it arrives, will remain a happy second.
Time was of great essence the last two weeks, ahead of the team’s departure to South Africa, as Pujara kept shuttling between family and work. The latter kept him busier than ever.
At his academy in Rajkot, with father Arvind by his side like ever before, he went into the monk-mode in order to prepare for what’s going to be the first of three big challenges this year. South Africa, he says, “will probably test us more than anyone else”.
The batsman has a lot on his mind already. Family and the work coming up aside, there are the demons of 2014 that he wants to get rid of. “I accepted the failure (then), worked on my weaknesses and tried to see how I could correct them,” he said. For a man who’s preferred to let his bat do the talking, it’s understandable for him to go seeking redemption.
It’s not difficult to understand why he’s so particularly looking at South Africa as the destination to prove a point. Among all Test nations he’s played against — home and away — he averages the least against the South Africans. At 39.46, Pujara wouldn’t be content at all especially if his average against the Australians remains above 55 and against England at 48.14.
Trust the Rajkot cricketer to take these things seriously.
And there’s more. He’s got to resurrect his position as a batsman who can do well overseas. There’s no doubting Pujara — the Test batsman, but even he agrees that he needs to narrow the gulf between his away average of 38.53 compared to an impressive 62.98 in India.
There’s a funny way the word ‘average’ is pronounced in Gujarat, the local twang making it sound more like ‘everage’. But trust the Gujarati to take his numbers very seriously. His stare at being reminded of his away record, metamorphoses into a smile.
“Let’s hope for the best,” he says.
Pujara has played four Tests in South Africa and, in this team, he along with Murali Vijay have toured there more than anyone else. In these four matches, he can fall back on the victory at Durban in 2010 and the 153 at the Wanderers to seek motivation. Yet, it’s Cape Town, the venue for the first Test this week, that’ll be playing on his mind. Pujara scored just two in the only Test he played there. No wonder he speaks of “correcting the past”. Source : timesofindia