CRICKET AFTER CORONA
Pujara is slowly getting into the groove, preferring to bat around 20-25 minutes – thrice a week. © Getty
Known for his ‘never say die’ attitude with the bat, India’s number three batsman, Cheteshwar Pujara, is bringing those very qualities into the fold as he awaits for resumption of cricket post Covid-19 pandemic that has engulfed the world.
The 32-year old top-order batsman returned to training at his home base of Rajkot – three months after helping Saurashtra secure their maiden Ranji title. With India battling the pandemic, and resumption of any cricket at home looking uncertain, Pujara still believes that he’s back into the scheme of things at the right time.
“You have to start at some point and it is important “, the soft-spoken top-order batsman said in an interview with Press Trust of India (PTI). “If you are going to the ground, you are getting used to the sun and outdoor environment. Most players have been indoors for such a long time,” he added.
Pigeonholed as a Test batsman, Pujara’s next India stint might not come before the team’s tour of Australia in December, where they are scheduled to play four Tests. Amidst the pandemic and lockdowns imposed across several parts of the country – the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has ceded that the domestic season might not even start on time – leaving cricketers across the country with no choice but to play the waiting game.
Pujara though says his mental fortitude, which has helped him concentrate for hours together at the crease, has come in aid during these testing situations. I don’t see any series happening for the next two-three months, so one has to take things gradually,” he pointed out.
“If you are mentally tough, you can take a long break comfortably. Test matches don’t happen frequently so one has to play domestic cricket. It was not such a big thing for me and to come back from it, I will be fresh and more eager to play. The mental challenge is not an issue for me,” he asserted.
Having hit the nets, the right-handed batsman is slowly getting into the groove, preferring to bat around 20-25 minutes – thrice a week. With time, he’s looking to gradually increase the level of intensity as he looks forward to the upcoming season. “Once you are outdoors it is a different feeling altogether. Training here is obviously not the same as you get in a team environment but at least you are doing something to get yourself going.
“Nobody knows what the situation will be three-four months down the line, when the next series will be held. The next few months are about preparation and getting back into the game. It is too far to think about the next series”
“Your body will start moving a bit once you have a routine. As a cricketer, it is important to start whenever possible and adhere to the government guidelines (on social distancing) at the same time,” he noted.
Pujara has had his fair share of injury-related absence from the sport, but he insisted that he did remain active during the lock down period. “Getting back from an injury is much tougher than this. When I was injured in the past (2008 and 2011), I resumed training after a long time, longer than this but lockdown was different. I was still active when I was indoors (with the fitness routine),” the Saurashtra batsman said.
“Obviously, it feels a little different when you are holding a bat after a long time but because I worked on my fitness, it is helping now that I am playing again,” he added.
Having not played a competitive game of cricket since long, the fear of losing touch with the bat might haunt several batsman, but Pujara is confident that ‘years of discipline and training’ wouldn’t go waste. “The first week (of training) is tough. After a week you are back to normal, because you have played this game for such a long time, experience matters a lot,” he concluded.
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