For the past few Indian Premier League auctions, one factor has remained constant: Cheteshwar Pujara’s name comes out for a bid, no one bids for him and he goes unsold. After all, he has a reputation of being a Test cricket specialist.
But, on Thursday in Indore, Pujara was on fire for Saurashtra in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, showing there is more to his game than batting for hours and hours in a Test match.
Pujara, who played a vital role in India’s maiden Test triumph in Australia, struck a stroke-filled unbeaten 100 in 61 balls in a Group C match against Railways.
But if Pujara’s knock surprised one and all, the man himself was not.
“This was expected because I have done well whenever I have got the opportunity in white-ball cricket. I am not surprised by this century, but I am sure many people are,” Pujara told ESPNCricinfo after his knock against Railways. “I knew this one would come at some stage in my career, and this is the right time. I have been really batting well. Good form in Test cricket can help you bat well in shorter formats.”
Pujara has played only five one-day internationals for India and never featured in a T20I. He last played in the IPL in 2014 (and has played a total of 30 matches that has seen him score one fifty at a strike rate just below 100).
But, not for the first time in his career, he insisted he won’t give up on his white-ball career.
“I put my name in [for the IPL auctions] because somewhere down the line I am very confident about playing white ball, whether it is ODI or T20. If I am not picked, I am not picked. But with such results, if I can carry on like this, people will start noticing. Even franchises might take notice. If I am still not picked I will carry on doing things I am doing,” he said.
Pujara hit 14 boundaries and a six during his stay at the crease. He guided Saurashtra to a competitive 188/3 in their 20 overs and the knock was something special from Pujara, who took the Railways’ bowlers to task and played a special innings in the shortest format of the game, even if it eventually came in defeat.
The Indian stalwart played some delightful cricketing shots at the beginning of his innings, driving, flicking and cutting with confidence before using his feet against the spinners to great effect. He even opened up his stance at the end and attempted slogging.
Pujara said he takes his cue from New Zealand captain and IPL regular Kane Williamson. “The prime example I could give you is of Kane Williamson,” he said about his approach to T20.
“If you look at his T20 batting - he even got an Orange Cap in the IPL (2018) - most of his shots are cricketing shots. That is what I look up to. I like to make runs similarly. If I have to play unorthodox shots, if need be at some stage, then I will work on it if the format requires that. I am not against that, but my success has been with cricketing shots and I will stick to that as long as I can,” he added.