Kolkata: Former India captain Sourav Ganguly on Wednesday India’s Test specialist batsman Cheteshwar Pujara is as good as captain Virat Kohli when it comes to the five-day format.
“Pujara is from the old school of cricketers who will keep working hard and deliver. Look at his Test records, after 57 matches, he’s got 14 hundreds. He just goes unnoticed,” Ganguly said while speaking at the Kolkata launch of his book titled “A Century Is Not Enough”.
Pujara was seated next to him as were legendary off-spinner and batting ace V.V.S. Laxman.
“Along with Virat Kohli in this team, his record is as good as anybody. He’s from that school of cricket where he will grind you, grind you and win you matches.
“The best team had the best number three. When India played at its best the best number three was Dravid. When India played at its best away, its Pujara at number three. They actually take the shine off the new ball, allow the strokmakers to make batting easier. He is as important to this Test team as Virat Kohli. But sometimes he goes unnoticed,” Ganguly added.
Reacting to Ganguly’s praise, a smiling Pujara said he likes to play in the ‘old school’ fashion.
“I still prefer to play in old school fashion. (I like to) spend a lot of time at the crease, read the situation and start scoring runs.
“Once you assess the conditions, know what the bowlers are tring to do, you are in a different zone. I don’t need to worry about playing shots, it comes naturally,” said Pujara who took 54 balls to get off the mark in the third Test against South Africa in Johannesburg.
Pujara, who does not play white-ball cricket for India, said he is now also playing lofted shots and reverse sweeps for the shorter format.
“Obviously not for Tests, but when I practised for T20 matches, I practised reverse sweeps. If you need to get better at something, you need to start playing the shots,” said Pujara who has played just five ODIs for the country.
“To get myself better in ODIs and T20s I also started playing lofted shots. Before five-six years, I never used to play any lofted shots.
“I try to get my technique stronger rather than working on my shots,” the Saurashtra right-hander said.
Walking down the memory lane, Ganguly said his father sent him a chit during the famous India-Australia Eden Gardens second Test in 2001 which changed the face of Indian cricket.
After skittling out for a paltry 171 in reply to Australia’s 445 in the first innings, India under Ganguly fought back valiantly to declare at 657/7 in the second dig, setting Australia a target of 384 and winning by 171 runs.
“We wasn’t certain to win it (the test). We were certain to lose it had to take 10 wickets still. I had asked John Wright (then coach) when should we declare. He said wait wait…the Australian side were that good, they could make 350 runs in one day.
“Then I got a chit from my father, he said ‘what’s going on?’ Everybody screaming on top of head, why don’t you declare? I thought where is he, but he was right up there in the box. After that, it was a Harbhajan Singh show,” Ganguly recollected.
Harbhajan took seven wickets including a hattrick in the first innings and the more pivotal six wickets in the second to help India script a miraculous triumph.
Ganguly said had it not been for the 2001 series against the Aussies or the 2004 Pakistan tour, this book would not have been written.
Lauding the group of players he skippered, he said all had the capability to lead the side and every captain is nervous from within but never shows.
“All were capable of leading the team. I had such good players in the team. I can bet you from inside everyone is nervous even MS Dhoni. You don’t show it,” the 45-year old said.
Harbhajan signed off by saying that had it not been for Ganguly’s support, he would not be where he is.
“I was thrown out of the (National Cricket Academy) NCA for being naughty. If dada was not there, I would not be sitting here.”