Delighted after scoring his 31st first-class hundred that helped Saurashtra storm into finals of the 2015/16 Ranji Trophy campaign, Indian Test cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara said that it was his long years of grinding it out in the domestic circuit that had taught him the art of how to build an innings.
True to his character, Pujara took ample time to kick start his innings but also showed his aggressive side later on in his knock of 126 against Assam in the semi-finals that Saurashtra won by 10 wickets. The 28-year-old said that he was just playing according to the situation and depending on how well the opposition was bowling.
"I just thought I will watch the ball and never restricted my shots. They bowled in a line where I didn't want to go for it, and it helped me. Their line was very outside off and was short. And I was happy leaving the ball," said Pujara, explaining his slow start to the innings.
Determined to register a three-figure knock
However, to everyone’s surprise, Pujara went into attack mode while batting in the 80s with less than an hour’s play remaining on Day 2 to smash a few boundaries, taking a special liking to Pallavkumar Das, whom Pujara hit for three fours in an over.
Pujara said that he was simply making use of his experience and taking advantage of the tired Assam bowlers who were wavering in their line and length.
"Once I assess the situation, once I know what I have to do then I have my game plans," he said, as reported by ESPN Cricinfo. "The ball got old, we had lost five wickets, I thought I should accelerate because the bowler's lengths weren't very good as well. That is experience. What you do in that situation [comes with] your experience."
Responding to queries that whether spending long periods of time out in the middle was draining physically or mentally, Pujara replied that he never felt so as he was always loved engaging in a battle with the bowlers.
"If you are trying to focus so much then you drain yourself but I enjoy being there in the field," he said. "Watching the ball is natural so the mind is always [switched] on. I have had fairly good concentration levels right from the start, and I try to keep that going. It's about knowing what is happening on the wicket and what the bowlers are doing and what I need to do [to counter them]."
Elaborating on his knock against Assam, Pujara said that he was determined to register a three-figure knock after missing out in the quarter-finals stage against Vidarbha, where he was dismissed for 47 when he looked destined for a big score.
"When you play on difficult wickets it doesn't matter whether you have played 100 or 50 international matches: if you make a minor mistake you are out," he said. "What I had in my mind was the last match I was batting so well I thought I am off for a double hundred or 150 but one ball, you make a mistake and you are out. So my main thinking was to focus on the next ball, and once I get my rhythm then no one can stop me,” a confident-looking Pujara said.