Cheteshwar Pujara, who hit his second century of the Australia series in the ongoing Melbourne Test, said that the MCG pitch was not an easy one to bat on and the hosts will find it tough to score after India’s sizeable first innings total.
Pujara produced yet another classy hundred and stitched a 170-run stand with captain Virat Kohli (82) to put India in command against Australia on the second day of the third Test on Thursday.
India declared their innings at 443/7 in the final session. At stumps, Australia were 8/0 from six overs with openers Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris on 3 and 5 respectively, as India lead by 435 runs.
“It is a tough pitch to bat on,” Pujara said in the post-match press conference. “If you look at the first two days, the number of runs scored were very less.
“I would say that scoring 200 in a day is a tough task so I think we have enough runs on the board. As we saw today, the pitch has already started deteriorating and there is a variable bounce.”
Pujara (106) and Ajinkya Rahane (34) were both dismissed off deliveries that kept low on day two.
“When I was batting yesterday and when I was batting today, I felt there was a difference and I don’t think it is easier to bat now,” Pujara said. “From tomorrow onwards it will get difficult to bat and our bowlers have been bowling well, so I would say we have enough runs.”
Talking about what makes the MCG pitch so challenging, Pujara, who was hit on his finger on quite a few occasions, said the bounce and the pace can be a huge factor.
“As a batsman, it is very difficult to get used to this pace [of the wicket],” he said. “Sometimes, you feel it is on the slower side but one odd ball kicks up.
“I got hit on my finger three to four times and those were not short balls, they were all back of a length and I got hit on my gloves.
“As a batsman there is always a doubt when you are playing on such pitches. The ball I got out to I felt I couldn’t have done anything about that.
“If it stays low as a batsman you have very limited options.”
The Indian batsman also said that Kohli’s back stiffness, which resulted in his uncharacteristic dismissal, was not serious.
“I don’t think it is serious, we were just having a chat,” he said. “I am not a physio so I can’t say much about it.
“We had a wonderful partnership today and we just wanted it to carry on, it is always important to have a big partnership and I am pleased with that.”
Pujara also had a word of praise for Kohli’s stroke-making after stitching a valuable partnership with him.
“He is such a great timer of the ball, his straight drive struck me the most, especially in this innings, the way he was hitting the ball.
“When I was at the non-striker’s end, I could see the full face of his bat, one shot which I really enjoyed watching.
At the same time, he is scoring runs in all three formats. Whenever we have a partnership, he tries to play his natural game and he keeps the scoreboard ticking.
“Whenever we have a partnership, we try and share the information we have about the bowlers and the conditions.”
Pujara also spoke at length about his innings, which was his slowest hundred so far, taking 280 deliveries.
“You have to bat as per the situation and the wicket, on this track all batsmen had to play a few balls first to get runs and it was difficult.
“On another wicket, maybe I would have scored 140-150 runs at least after playing these many balls.
“But in Test cricket, it is about reading the pitch and the situation and batting according to it.”
Pujara also brushed off the criticism often meted out to him for his strike rate. “When I play international cricket, I don’t need to silence anyone,” he said.
“I just need to keep scoring runs and that is what I love to do. My job is to score runs and I will do that whether it is home or away.
“Sometimes you do get criticised and you just have to accept it but if you keep scoring runs and India keeps winning, ultimately everyone is happy.”
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