Sri Lanka in India

Sri Lanka Tests will help in preparing for South Africa series, says Cheteshwar Pujara

The top-order batsman said strategies for the overseas tour are likely to be discussed when all the players assemble ahead of the series against the islanders.

He is expected to play a major role during next year’s tour of South Africa and Cheteshwar Pujara is confident that the upcoming Sri Lanka series will give him a “good opportunity” to prepare for the tough assignment ahead.

“Obviously, next year’s South Africa series is something that is there at the back of my mind. The upcoming Sri Lanka series will be a good opportunity to prepare for the South Africa assignment. I am confident of doing well,” Pujara said.

Asked if he had started preparing for the South Africa series, which starts with first Test in Cape Town on January 6, Pujara said: “The main preparation will certainly start closer to the series. But I believe once we assemble to play the Test series against Sri Lanka, there will be some serious discussions on the South African tour. There will be strategies and plans in place.”

Asked if he is keen doing some special preparations for the bouncy pitches of South Africa, Pujara replied: “Like every series, I will be doing my own homework. There are a a few areas that I will like to work in the nets before the series. Those are very specific things but it will be unfair to reveal them as that’s a part of the strategy.”

Fine form against Sri Lanka

Pujara had a fantastic outing against Sri Lanka few months back with scores of 153 and 133 in the first two Tests at Galle and Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s bowling attack wasn’t up to the mark during that series but the Saurashtra right-hander will not like to be complacent ahead of a new series.

“I agree that during the last series, Sri Lanka’s bowling attack may not have been one of the best but Test runs never come easy. You have to fight for every run that you score in longer format.

“Also every series is a new series. Your intensity does not change according to the opposition you play. Sri Lanka is also an international side and you have to give them the same respect like any other team,” said the 29-year-old, who has scored 4107 runs in 51 Tests with 13 hundreds.

Recently, Pujara went through a lean patch in first-class cricket – nine successive innings in first-class cricket (which includes four County matches for Northamptonshire) without a half-century – but not for once was he worried as he felt good while batting.

“I always knew that a big innings is just round the corner. When you know that you are batting well, you can feel it. It was about one good innings and it came against Jharkhand,” added Pujara.

Record-breaker

The 204 against Jharkhand made him the Indian batsman with most number of double hundreds (12) in first-class cricket surpassing the legendary late Vijay Merchant (11). Late Vijay Hazare (11 double tons), Sunil Gavaskar and Rahul Dravid (10 each) are behind him now.

“Actually, I didn’t know about the record while I was batting. I only came to know about it once second day’s play was over. I got a few text messages and came to know that it was a national record. It was a good feeling indeed knowing that there are some great players on that list.”

Along with Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, Pujara has been a pillar of the Test squad, giving the batting order much-needed solidity.

Ask him if he can copy Kohli’s flamboyant style of batsmanship, Pujara said that it is not the best thing to do.

“Each and every batsman has his own distinct style of batsmanship. It’s of no use trying to copy anyone else. Each and every player has his own strengths and builds his game accordingly,” concluded Pujara.

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