Cheteshwar Pujara’s father, Arvind Shivlal Pujara, who also happens to be his coach, is delighted at the manner in which the 28-year-old has managed to retain his place in the Indian Test side after getting back in form after numerous failures to convert his starts into big totals had threatened his place in the side.
With the likes of his idol Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar in the ranks, Pujara had to bide his time before making his debut in the longer format of the game despite his consistent performances in the domestic circuit. The right-handed batsman did make the most of his opportunity when the long-awaited call-up finally arrived, making an impressive start to his Test career.
However, a string of low scores, especially his failure to convert starts into big scores had him hanging on the ropes with the likes of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul threatening his spot in the Test line-up. His masterful century against Sri Lanka at Colombo in 2015, in which he carried his bat through the innings to set India on its way to a famous come-from-behind series victory, however, made everyone realise Pujara’s importance to the side and the Saurashtra lad has kept it going since with quite a few crucial knocks.
As he gets set to play in front of his home crowd at Rajkot for the first time at the international level when India take on England in the Test series opener beginning on Wednesday, Pujara’s father, Arvind, who himself played first-class cricket for Saurashtra, revealed his pride at the way Pujara has managed to survive the testing times in his career so far.
“We can say that Cheteshwar is in good touch,” he said about Pujara’s current run of form. “Cricket, lot of it is psychological. Your mental strength is the key. You need to have the balance in mind. Like in life, there will be ups and downs, the one with a balanced mind can come out of his tough phases. You have to learn to wait for your time. That is possible only when you keep an open mind. This you learn from experience.”
Despite playing a key role in Pujara’s rise as a cricketer, Arvind credited his late wife, Reema, who passed away after battling cancer when Pujara was just 17, for instilling a strong mentality in his son.
“He has a balanced mind from his childhood. It is not my contribution as his coach; he has to thank his (late) mother for that. She is the one who taught him to keep the faith, in God, in his game, and in his coach,” he said. “You can teach skills, and confidence you can develop, but without faith, nothing will work. Without it, doubts will creep in and with the slightest of doubt, there is a big problem. It’s because of his balance that he has scored so many runs.”
Pujara’s 38th Test will also be the first time that Arvind will catch his son in action for India and the former cricketer revealed that he is nervous, yet expecting a good match for Pujara in front of his own fans.
“Some amount of nervousness is always there,” Arvind said. “I want him to perform well in front of the Saurashtra people.”