The beaming face of Cheteshwar Pujara said it all as he walked into the media conference room after scoring his maiden Test century against New Zealand on the first day of the first cricket Test here on Thursday.
The 24-year-old Pujara was “visibly pleased with this batting today.”
“I dreamt to start off this way. I was really looking for the big century having missed out on my debut against Australia (when he scored 72 in the 2010 Test series at home),”he started off after remaining unbeaten on 119 at close of play on first day.
Quite expectedly one of the first questions was how he felt the pressure of replacing Rahul Dravid? Quick was Pujara’s response. “I can’t replace someone like Rahul who scored more than 10,000 runs. It is impossible to think of that,” was his frank and honest reply.
“Well, I just want to play my natural game. There were times when I was under pressure. But, I am happy that I showed the mental toughness to get through those phases today,” the star performer of the day for India from Rajkot remarked.
“It was definitely frustrating a bit when I had to spend sometime in the 90s. But that is what is all about in a Test match. You need lot of patience. I am really happy that I handled this well. I think it is my preparations which helped me a long way,” he said.
“This is a slow pitch, especially after lunch. The outfield was also slow. So you have to be patient. I I am happy the way I paced myself. That is all about Test cricket. We have to wait for the loose ball and
counter the outswing too,” Pujara said to a query.
The lone centurion for India on the first day pointed out that he was aware that he would be batting at No.3. “This I did a number of times for Saurashtra for which even I opened the innings and also for my employers IOC. I have no worries batting up the order,” he insisted.
Referring to the fact that he was virtually staging a comeback after being injured twice in the last one year, Pujara reminded that he knew in his heart that he would come back into the Indian team for the hunger for the game has increased when he was out of the game for almost an year.
How did he prepare to the situation given the fact that India is playing this Test match without two of its finest batsmen – Rahul and V.V.S.Laxman? “I just shared a few thoughts with Virat (Kohli), who was enquiring how the ball was doing and the pitch behaving. Then, we decided to build a partnership, wait for the bowlers get tired,” Pujara revealed.
Looking at the Test match itself, Pujara said that the first target for the team would be to cross 400-plus total. ‘If in the process, I can hit a double century, it should be great,” he said with a big smile.
Pujara dedicated his maiden century to his father who also coaches him. “He really worked hard with me. I know how he himself personally had gone through difficult times (including a by-pass surgery). I am thankful to him,” he said.
For his part, New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult is delighted at getting the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar.
“That was a huge highlight for me today. I will always remember that. Something, very special to get such a great batsman. I was lucky that the ball sneaked through the gate. It was a huge moment for me,” the 23-year-old, left-arm fast bowler said at the end of the day’s play.
“I must say that Pujara showed lot of patience and played well. Though the score-line read 307 for five, I still feel the match is still balanced evenly,” he felt.
“Definitely, the first hour on Friday should be crucial to decide the fate of the match itself. The pitch was different from what it looked yesterday. It was a little bit slower and the carry variable,” Boult commented.
The Kiwi fast bowler agreed that his team had somewhat let the pressure ease on the Indians who were 125 for three when Sachin got out. “We missed it somewhere then,” he felt.