‘Joy to watch Rohit from the other end’
Visakhapatnam: Cheteshwar Pujara took his time to settle down before matching Rohit Sharma shot for shot in the second innings as India went about their quest for quick runs against South Africa on Saturday.
India had wrested a first-innings lead of 71 runs and set South Africa a target of 395 to win. Pujara said it was not an easy wicket to bat on to start with. But with Rohit batting beautifully at the other end, it didn’t take long for the No.3 to get going.
“It was a difficult pitch to bat on,” Pujara said after scoring 81 and putting on 169 for the second wicket with Rohit. “It was not east to rotate the strike. Especially with my game and the kind of shots I play, I was finding it difficult early on. It was a two-paced pitch against fast bowlers and even against spinners. But once I knew that, I changed my point of impact. I had to play a little upfront because the pitch was slow against spinners and I had to generate power.”
Pujara had the best seat in the stadium when Rohit was on song. “When Rohit was batting, I felt I could take some time to settle down. To play all those strokes that he did on this wicket… that partnership was crucial. Our communication was good as he we have batted together since our U-19 days. It was a joy to watch him from the non-striker’s end. The way he hits sixes is incredible and as a Test batsman who wants to improve his ODI and T20 cricket, there is lots to learn from him. Especially when it comes hitting the ball out of the park.”
The bowlers should be excited by the variable bounce and cracks on the pitch. “There is enough rough for spinners and the cracks will open up bit more on Day 5. The cracks will help the fast bowlers and we have seen that the pitch has got variable bounce. I don’t think it will bounce that much but there will be more bounce for the spinners on the rough,” Pujara said.
Declaration, Pujara said, came at the right time. “We did not want to bowl too many overs because we wanted to keep the ball hard for start of day five. Once the ball gets soft, it is slightly easier to bat. We picked up a crucial wicket so as a team so we are happy.”
During his 148-ball essay, Pujara also enjoyed a chat with Kagiso Rabada after one of the edges eluded the off-colour Quinton de Kock. “When you are facing a fast bowler, you expect that. There was not anything personal. I always enjoy such challenges. It motivates me to bat well.”