Known for his sound technique and insatiable appetite for runs, Cheteshwar Pujara believes he has it in himself to succeed Rahul Dravid at the crucial number three position in the Test side and says comparison with his childhood idol acts as a “morale-booster“.
“It’s a big compliment for me because someone who has been successful in Indian cricket and someone who has been called ‘The Wall’ of the Indian cricket, if you are compared with that person, it’s a morale-booster for me and increases my confidence,” Pujara said.
“He is one of my childhood idols. I try and learn as many things as possible from him. Unfortunately, he has retired now, but whenever I had the opportunity to play alongside Dravid, I always enjoyed his company, the way he used to guide me, the way he used to give me tips, it was always motivating for me,” he said.
Seen by many as one who could go on to be an able successor to the former great, Pujara has an average of 65 after 13 Tests, having scored four centuries — including two double hundreds and three half-centuries.
The 25-year-old Saurashtra batsman, who has strengthened his position in the Test format, is patiently waiting for his chance to make the ODI debut.
“I’ll get my chances soon. I am working on being a good ODI and T20 player. I started off well in Test cricket and if I continue the way I am playing in Tests, I’ll get my chances in the ODI format too. I just need to wait for my opportunity and I know the time will soon come,” said Pujara, who averages 56.97 in 61 domestic one-day matches.
Talking about the tough tour to South Africa beginning December this year, Pujara admitted that the three Tests and seven ODI series will be a big test of his batting but exuded confidence of performing well in challenging conditions.
"I have played in South Africa in 2010, so I have the exposure of playing there. I know what to expect from the Proteas team and wickets. I have some plans for it and will prepare according to it. The team will also have some plans to counter the conditions there. When Gary Kirsten was our coach,
we had a decent South Africa tour where we tied the Test series. I hope we will be able to win the series this time."
Pujara, who has been seen as a specialist Test batsman, welcomed the ICC's decision to introduce the Test Championship, which will replace the 50-over Champions Trophy in the international calendar.
"I am happy with the development because Test format is the ultimate format of the game. That's the format from where cricket started. It's a good initiative by the ICC and all the cricketers will be happy to play the Test championship. I hope India will be able to win the inaugural edition," he said.
Asked about the IPL spot-fixing scandal that rocked Indian cricket, Pujara said, "It was disappointing for all the cricketers. I don't know whether it was done or not but I believe all other cricketers will be questioned because of few individuals."
Talking about the presence of seniors like Sachin Tendulkar and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the dressing room and their influence on the youngsters, Pujara said they always inspire confidence in you and help in correcting your mistakes.
"I got to learn many things from Sachin paaji. Whenever I make a mistake, he always comes to me and tells me that this is the mistake you are making and this is the way you should play. He will always come to me and gives me suggestions. It's always inspiring and I am honoured that I can share the dressing room with him," he said.
"Playing under the captaincy of Dhoni is a great feeling for all the youngsters. India has produced many great captains and he is one of those captains. All the team members enjoy his company," he added.