In 99 Tests heading into the Delhi game, he has scored 7021 runs at an average of 44.15, with 19 hundreds and 34 fifties. Playing hundreds Tests is a massive achievement, which can be gauged by the fact that he will be only the 13th player from India to reach the landmark.
In his own understated manner, though, Pujara downplayed the achievement. The workhorse from Saurashtra just wants to keep performing in every game he plays for India. Reflecting on his journey to 100 Tests, Pujara said at a pre-match press conference, “When I started playing cricket and made my debut, I never thought about playing 100 Test matches. For me, it’s always about being in the present and not thinking too far ahead.
“For me, it was just the last game when I thought probably before this series started – that’s when I realized that I would be playing my 100th Test match. In a career, you always go through ups and downs. You have to fight through those periods, but for me, I never thought I would play 100 Test matches. I have always been a player who wants to do well in every Test match and Test series,” he added.
The No. 3 batter is known for his resilience and battling it out under the most tense of circumstances. He rarely looks flustered even clearly against the wall. Over the last three years, when his form took a dip, there were phases when he had to face extreme criticism. Pujara credited his father (Arvind Pujara) for mentoring him and guiding him in his journey.
Opening up on what playing 100 Tests means to his family, Pujara admitted, “It means a lot to me and even to my family. My father has played a very important role in my cricketing journey. He is someone who has coached me since my childhood. So, he’s very excited. He’s going to be here tomorrow (Friday).
“Even my wife has been very supportive. In a cricketer’s life, family support is very important. I’m very thankful to my family, my friends, and the coaches I have worked with for over a while. They’ve played an important role in my cricketing career,” the batter continued.
On how he dealt with the tough phase when he was dropped from the Test side, Pujara admitted that it was challenging. At the same time, he asserted that he is always keen to improve and kept working on his game to make a comeback, which he did pretty soon.
Pujara explained, “The most important part is you need to be mentally strong. You need to believe in yourself. You should know your strength as a player. And that was something that I backed throughout my career. That is something that has given me success. I knew that if I had success in the first five-seven years because of what I had done, I can’t change my game.
“Yes, you can always fine-tune, you can always add a few shots to your game. But you can’t change entirely because other players play white-ball cricket, and their style of play is slightly different. So one has to understand that. Every player has their style. The most important thing I have learned over time is that one needs to stick to their strengths.”
--By A Cricket Correspondent