David Warner and Steve Smith’s presence does make Australia stronger but Cheteshwar Pujara has full faith in India’s “remarkable” bowlers, who, he feels, possess the wherewithal to script a repeat of the historic 2018-19 Test series victory. Pujara’s 500 plus runs with three top-notch hundreds formed the cornerstone of a 2-1 series win back then, India’s first in Australia in 71 years. However, Smith and Warner didn’t play in that series due to their ball-tampering bans. “It (Australian batting line-up) will be a little stronger than what it was in 2018-19 but then victories don’t come easy. If you want to win away from home, you need to work hard,” India’s dependable No.3 told PTI in an exclusive interview before he embarked on the tour of Australia.
Pujara believes that India’s fast bowling troika of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami can again work up some magic like in 2018-19, posing a lot of discomfort for the home batting line-up.
The upcoming Tests are scheduled to start on December 17.
“No doubt Smith, Warner and Marnus Labuschagne are great players. But the good part about our current crop of bowlers is that most of them play in the same series and our bowling unit will also not be very different to what it was in 2018-19.”
For India’s fast bowlers, it’s like a “been there, done that” situation.
“They know how to be successful in Australia as they have enjoyed success there in the past. They have their game-plans in place and if we can execute them well, they are capable of getting Smith, Warner and Labuschagne out quickly.”
“If we can do what we have done in the past, I am sure we have every chance of winning the series again.”
The opening Test in Adelaide is a Day-Night game and batting against the pink kookaburra during the twilight session will pose its own set of challenges, said the man who is nearing 6000 Test runs (5840 in 77 games) with 18 hundreds in his kitty.
“It will be a different challenge altogether playing with pink ball as pace and bounce also changes. We will be playing with pink kookaburra in Australia (against Bangladesh, it was Pink SG Test). It will be slightly different.”
He believes that overcoming the challenges of playing their first overseas Day/night Test will have to happen collectively.
“As a team and as individuals, one has to understand and accept and get used to it (pink ball and lights) as early possible. There will be a bit of difference with pink ball,” he said.
“The twilight period is more challenging than other periods but as you play more and practice more, you get used to it. It does take a little while…”
An astute student of the game, Pujara is known to work on his game with father Arvind Pujara, who is also his one and only coach.
He has plans in place but won’t like to divulge much.
“The technical aspect is something that I can’t discuss. I prefer not talking about it. It’s a strategic thing which can’t be divulged.”
“Even during the last tour, my preparation was good, I am confident that I am able to repeat the same preparation before this series also. I always try and add a few more things in my game, which will help me get better,” he said.
The 32-year-old is confident that history will repeat itself in Australia this time. “You can’t win matches on your own. Yes, you can perform exceptionally well but you need support from other players to win. Even the bowling unit was remarkable during the last series.”
“In the end, you need 20 wickets to win a Test and wasn’t just my performance, even other batters supported at some stage or the other. It was the team’s success. When the Indian team succeeds, it is always a moment of pride,” he recollected.
Pujara has practised for a good two months at his academy in Rajkot under the watchful eyes of his father.
Does it bother that before leaving for Australia, he didn’t get enough match practice? “Look, this is a sitiaton that has impacted millions of lives and people have lost lives. In normal circumstances, we would have played domestic cricket and gone to Australia but everyone needs to think about safety and security.”
“As far as I am concerned, I am happy if I am able to practice, do my fitness, running sessions and move my body well, which I did,” he concluded.
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