Although the Indian No. 3 did not produce big scores during the 2020-21 visit to Australia, he chipped in with a number of defiant knocks, taking blows on the body to keep Aussie bowlers at bay for a lengthy period of time. The 35-year-old was the unsung hero in India’s 2-1 series triumph against Tim Paine and co.
Pujara has played 98 Tests so far, scoring 7014 runs at an average of 44.39, with 19 hundreds and 34 fifties. If all goes according to plan the second Test against Australia in Delhi, starting February 17, will be the right-handed batter’s 100th Test. Looking back at his journey, Pujara told Times of India in an interview, "I've enjoyed a few good series. But that (2018-19) was the best series of my cricketing career. The way I was batting, concentrating, there was a lot of physical and mental stress during that series. Every game was a challenge.”
Australia may not have won a Test series in India since 2004. However, they are coming in with an extremely strong team led by Pat Cummins. Pujara admits that India have a big challenge on hand. Praising the Aussies, the resilient cricketer said, “They are a competitive side. They throw a challenge at you and I'm someone who likes that kind of battle. It's not just the verbal battle, but the cricketing battle. They are always a fighting team. As a player, whenever the team is in a difficult situation, your role is to ensure that you pull them out of trouble.
"There have been times when I've played such important knocks and most of them have come against the Australians. I think it's about being mentally strong about what you want to achieve for your team, for your country," the batter added.
Going too slow is one criticism that has often been made about Pujara. The batter has dismissed the claims and continues to stick to his stand. He explained, "There are times you are batting well and runs start flowing and there are times you going through a difficult phase in your career. So, you've to take time before playing your shots. It has happened when you consume some balls.
“The important thing in Test cricket is if you're at the crease, you will eventually score runs. If you look at my career and seen some of my innings in domestic cricket, I have the capability to accelerate when it's needed," he asserted.
The India vs Australia Border-Gavaskar Trophy begins with the first Test at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium in Nagpur from February 9.
--By A Cricket Correspondent