The beaming face of Cheteshwar Pujara said it all as he walked into the media conference room after scoring his maiden Test century here on Thursday.
“I dreamt of starting off in this manner. I was really looking for the century having missed out on my debut against Australia (when he scored 72 in the 2010 Test series at home),” the 24 year old Pujara said after remaining unbeaten on 119 at close of play on first day.
Quite expectedly, one of the first questions was about whether he felt the pressure of replacing Rahul Dravid. “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.
“I just wanted 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 from Rajkot remarked.
“It was definitely frustrating when I had to spend some time in the 90s. But in a Test match you need a lot of patience. I think it is my preparation which helped me a long way,” he said.
The century-maker 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 I even opened the innings and also for my employers IOC. I have no worries batting up the order,” he clarified.
When asked how he prepared for the situation, given the fact that India is playing this Test match without two of its finest batsmen — Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman — Pujara said: “I just shared a few thoughts with Virat (Kohli). Then, we decided to build a partnership and wait for the bowlers to get tired.”
About the match itself, Pujara said that the first target for the team would be to cross 400. ‘If in the process, I can hit a double century, it would be great,” he said.
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.
New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult was delighted at getting the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar.
“That was the highlight for me today. It is something, very special to get the wicket of such a great batsman. 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. Though the score-line is 307 for five, I feel the match is still balanced evenly,” he said.
“Definitely, the first hour on Friday should be crucial to decide the fate of the match. The pitch was different from what it looked yesterday. It was a bit slower and the carry variable,” Boult said.