As the glitter and cacophony of the IPL engulfs India, with maximums and power hitting among the most prized batting traits, Cheteshwar Pujara is happily discussing the value of the leave in Leeds.
While it is common for the County Championship to see visiting Test players use the competition as a valuable acclimatisation period before a Test series, Pujara maintains he would have played in England even if India were not touring later this summer. It is, after all, his fourth stint in the Championship and his second for Yorkshire. At Headingley they hope his return is an omen: when he was here in 2015 the title followed.
Yorkshire are seeking a refocus in their approach to batting this season, with an emphasis on consolidation before attack. (http://www.espn.in/cricket/story/_/id/23014145/the-spirit-boycott-stalks-headingley-yorkshire-go-back-basics) They could hardly have found a better exponent of this than Pujara. Generally a cautious starter, he is notoriously difficult to pry from the crease, as evidenced by his 14 Test and 44 First Class centuries.
“They have spoken to me about that,” Pujara told ESPNcricinfo. “The guys played too many shots in the last couple of seasons. They’ve learned from their mistakes and obviously they will try to change the way they play a little bit but at the same time one has to know their strengths and weaknesses so you still need to play according to your strength.
“It is always important to spend a lot of time at the crease, have a lot of patience when the ball is doing a lot understand the situation where you need to be a little defensive and know your time to attack because you will always have a time when the ball doesn’t do much and that is where you can capitalise.”
Not everyone appreciates Pujara’s discipline and control. His trademark slow starts and a Test strike rate of 47.45 frustrate those fans who have grown impatient on a white ball diet and its effect on the longer formats. When Pujara scored a majestic double-century against Australia in the third Test at Ranchi, which ended in a draw, (http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/10839/scorecard/1062575/india-vs-australia-3rd-test-ind-v-aus-2016-17/) some critics pointed to the time it took – 525 balls – for him to make 202 as a major impediment to India winning the match. He feels fans in England have a greater appreciation of his skills and temperament.
“Sometimes I do feel that when I start leaving the ball people really don’t appreciate that because of shorter formats of the game, ” said Pujara. “But when I come here they understand what my role is.
“In the India team they do understand but I’m talking about the fans’ perspective where they want to see fours and sixes. So when I come here fans they do understand the game, they do appreciate if you’re leaving the ball, if the bowler is bowling well, if the conditions are challenging, they understand that you need to survive that. Then obviously, once I’m set, I always start scoring runs.”