Pu­jara is ready to dig in for York­shire’s cause on re­turn

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SPORT - CRICKET COR­RE­SPON­DENT Email: chris.wa­ters@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @CWater­sYPS­port Chris Wa­ters

CHETESHWAR PU­JARA is ready to play the pa­tience game to help bring sil­ver­ware back to a York­shire club rest­less for suc­cess.

The In­dia bats­man is renowned for his abil­ity to bat for long pe­ri­ods, some­thing that York­shire have been lack­ing in County Cham­pi­onship cricket.

The club are des­per­ate to re­turn to win­ning ways af­ter only just avoid­ing rel­e­ga­tion last year, and over­seas sign­ing Pu­jara is adamant he can aid their quest for a third ti­tle in five years.

“Pa­tience is the key,” said Pu­jara, who is some­thing of a throw­back in terms of his com­posed bat­ting style.

“In Eng­land, the wick­ets are chal­leng­ing, and you’re play­ing on seam­ing wick­ets that de­vi­ate a lot and there’s al­ways help in the air for the bowlers.

“I would like to spend a lot of time at the crease and score as many runs as pos­si­ble. It’s al­ways im­por­tant to start off well as a team, and then you can carry that mo­men­tum for­ward.”

Pu­jara, who will bat No 3 in the open­ing game against cham­pi­ons Es­sex at Emer­ald Head­in­g­ley on Fri­day, and who is with York­shire for the next three months and then pos­si­bly again at the end of the sea­son, has fa­bled pow­ers of con­cen­tra­tion.

Av­er­ag­ing 50 from 57 Tests, and with 12 scores of more than 200 to his credit in first-class cricket, in­clud­ing three 300s, he said that he re­alised early on that to hold down a reg­u­lar place in a stud­ded In­dia side that sim­ply scor­ing 100s was not enough.

“To get into the Indian team, I had to re­ally work hard be­cause we had so many great play­ers,” said Pu­jara, who made his Test de­but in 2010.

“Gamb­hir, Se­hwag, Lax­man, Dravid, Tendulkar – all of them were play­ing at that time, and to get into that team, you had to score many runs.

“When I was scor­ing hun­dreds it wasn’t enough, so I started scor­ing dou­ble-hun­dreds, triple­hun­dreds. I re­alised that if I had an op­por­tu­nity I had to go on.”

That men­tal­ity will be mu­sic to the ears of York­shire, whose bat­ting has not fired col­lec­tively since 2014, when they won the first of two back-to-back ti­tles.

The art of bat­ting time, a la great for­mer play­ers such as Ge­of­frey Boy­cott, is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly rare in a T20 era in which run-scor­ing is more ex­plo­sive, al­beit of­ten at the ex­pense of per­ma­nence at the crease.

“It’s not lost com­pletely (the art of bat­ting time), al­though I do agree that the shorter for­mat is tak­ing over,” said Pu­jara, whose calm­ness off the field re­flects his cool­ness on it.

“The mod­ern era bats­men want to start play­ing shots from early on, and their strike-rate is chang­ing, but I still feel there is enough room for the guys with the right tech­nique, the right tem­per­a­ment, be­cause when you play in chal­leng­ing con­di­tions you can’t just keep play­ing your shots, you need to assess what the pitch is like, what the con­di­tions are like, and so on.”

Pu­jara’s ap­proach was ex­em­pli­fied by an ex­tra­or­di­nary in­nings he played on his most re­cent Test ap­pear­ance, against South Africa at Cape Town in Jan­uary.

He scored 50 in al­most fourand-a-half hours on a treach­er­ous pitch to help In­dia to a 63-run win, tak­ing 54 balls to get off the mark.

“That fifty was more sat­is­fy­ing than scor­ing a dou­ble-hun­dred against any team,” he said. “I faced a lot of balls and that wicket was one of the tough­est wick­ets I’ve ever played on.

“To play on such pitches is a great ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause you need con­cen­tra­tion and must leave the ball well.

“As a bats­man, you don’t just want to be play­ing on flat wick­ets, you want to be scor­ing runs on chal­leng­ing pitches as you be­come more con­fi­dent and sat­is­fied.”

This is Pu­jara’s sec­ond spell at York­shire, where he played four Cham­pi­onship games in 2015, scor­ing 264 runs at 52.

He also played three Cham­pi­onship matches for Der­byshire in 2014, scor­ing 219 runs at 54, but strug­gled at Notts last sum­mer, mak­ing 333 runs in eight games at 27.

“I’m feel­ing in good form now and had a won­der­ful time at York­shire in 2015,” he said.

“When I knew that York­shire were will­ing to call me back, I was im­me­di­ately look­ing for­ward to it and said ‘yes’.

“The dress­ing room in 2015 was some­thing that stood out for me, and that is the rea­son I came back. They’re a great bunch of play­ers and I can’t wait to get go­ing.”

Pu­jara is pop­u­lar with a squad who three years ago nick­named him ‘Steve’.

“It was Jack Brooks who came up with that name,” he said. “The guys are still call­ing me Steve now, as it’s re­ally dif­fi­cult for them to pro­nounce ‘Cheteshwar’.

“Sometimes, when they call me Steve, I’m not sure whether they’re call­ing me or some­one else!”

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