Cheteshwar Pujara’s last international century was back in January 2019 and a string of inconsistent performances meant that India’s dependable No. 3 finally lost his place after the tour of South Africa earlier this year.
Keen to make his way back, Pujara decided to ply his trade for Sussex in the County circuit. His run of scores for Sussex was hard to ignore for the selectors: 6 & 201 not out versus Derbyshire, 109 and 12 versus Worcestershire, 203 versus Durham and 16 & 170 not out versus Middlesex.
Back in the squad for the rescheduled Test versus England at Edgbaston from July 1, Pujara is ready for the challenge. India begin their campaign with a four-day warm-up tie versus Leicestershire in Leicester from Thursday.
“It’s a good challenge for us. Yes we are 2-1 ahead in the series but at the same time it’s the most important Test match of the series. And it’s coming after a long time. We just need to understand our strengths. The good thing is we are here early and have plenty of time to adjust to the conditions,” Pujara said in an interview to bcci.tv.
“If we play to potential and understand what has given us success in the last few Tests here, we can repeat them. At the same time there are a few changes in the England squad and we need to understand their strengths. We need to plan it well,” he said.
The presence of head coach Rahul Dravid has also made things easier for Pujara.
“Rahulbhai has always been an inspiration for me. My first interaction with him was in 2007-08 when he was leading the side and had come to Rajkot.
“I have learnt so many things from him and have been in touch. He always keeps things simple and doesn’t complicate things. He is always good to work with and it’s a good environment. The guys are eager to do well,” Pujara said.
The 34-year-old, however, didn’t forget to mention the contribution of Sussex county in the lead-up to his comeback.
“I had a lovely time with Sussex, the guys were great. It was about playing as many first-class games as possible and for me that experience was important. When you want to find your form, find your concentration it’s important to play long innings. I could do that and my rhythm was back, and everything started falling in place,” Pujara recalled.
“My footwork and backlift were coming along well. After that I just wanted to enjoy my game and contribute to the team’s success. Whenever I am on the field, I want to make the most of it.”