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'I am a natural batsman'

February 5, 2007

Did you expect to be selected among the 30 probables for the World Cup?

Yes and no. I had mixed feelings prior to the selection committee meeting in Rajkot during the Ranji Trophy match between Saurashtra and Karnataka. No, not because I had no talent or performances to stake my claim, but simply because I couldn't believe I was good enough to be picked as one of the 30 probables for as big an event as World Cup.

Now that you are picked, do you think you have what it takes to make the final cut of 15?

I really don't know. I haven't been considered for the ODIs against the touring West Indies and Sri Lanka, for obvious reasons, of course. But I'll naturally consider myself extremely lucky and feel very happy if I find a berth in the Caribbean-bound party for the World Cup.

Nevertheless, to be among the 30 probables for the World Cup at a young age is a huge honour in itself. It shows that the national selectors are impressed by my performance and have confidence in my ability.

Do you see yourself as part of Team India in the near future?

Yes, most certainly. In fact, it was my mother's dream too that I represent India. I've been consistent, and I'll continue to perform well.

I'm sure my opportunity and time will come. I'm not passing sleepless nights, not yet! I've a lot more to do and many things to prove as a cricketer, frankly speaking.

Everyone who matters in Indian cricket has only praise for your maturity, powers of concentration powers and mental toughness. What helps you be such a tough cookie?

Unlike most youngsters my age, I've always been a very serious type. I've no other hobbies and interests in life except cricket. I've always pursued cricket with a single-minded determination and dedication. I'm very religious, and I meditate a lot whenever I have time. It helps me to have a positive attitude and concentrate well when I'm at the wicket.

Could you tell us about those people who have helped your development?

My dad Arvind Pujara, who played in the Ranji Trophy for Saurashtra, has always been my friend, philosopher and guide. I've had no personal coach except my dad. It's he who has taught me everything about cricket. He has sacrificed some of the precious years of his life for my growth as a cricketer.

Much the same could be said about my mother Reena, who passed away in late 2005 when I was busy playing a cricket match in Bhavnagar. She had done so much for me. If my dad has played a key role in making me a good cricketer, my mother instilled some virtues in me as a human being. She advised me never to speak lies, never to be arrogant and never forget my humble origins even if I became a star. And yes, she had taken a promise from me that I would play Test cricket for my country one day.

It had become an obsession of sorts for her, and she would always tell me I shouldn't rest content till I represented India. She would have been ecstatic finding my name among the 30 probables for World Cup.

I noticed Venkatesh Prasad, who till recently was coaching India's Under-19 squad, talking to you at length during the recent Ranji Trophy tie between Saurashtra and Karnataka. What tips did you receive from him?

He has been very kind and encouraging to me. I've often had discussions with him about my technique and other aspects of cricket. His advice and guidance have always come in handy for me. He has taught me the importance of self-confidence, and advised me never ever to lose trust in my own ability as a cricketer.

Like my mother, he too has told me to be honest in life. He has been an ideal coach for youngsters like me.

In your short career, you have already played some significant knocks, including a triple hundred as well as a double century in an Under-19 Test against England. Which one knock do you cherish more than the rest, and why?

I can never forget my 129 as an opener in the semifinal against England in the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Colombo early last year. I was very happy playing this particular innings. I really enjoyed playing my shots, especially at the very end of the innings when we had to add some quick runs to our total. Not only did it come in the semifinal and against a better, competitive attack, it also enabled my team to reach the final.

In the final of that tournament, though, your performance was disappointing.

Yes, I'll never forgive myself for having not contributed a single run to my team in the final, when I was expected to play yet another major innings and win the tournament for the country. My failure with the bat robbed me of my joy of winning the Player of the Tournament award.

We were so confident of bringing home the coveted trophy, especially after we sent Pakistan packing. But it wasn't just India's day.

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Also read:

Cheteshwar Pujara A talent for tomorrow
Rahul Dravid What Dravid and others say about Pujara

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