Cheteshwar Pujara had been involved in two Ranji finals that Saurashtra lost. The first against Mumbai was an one-sided affair while the second last year against Vidarbha was lost due to lack of application at crucial junctures.

The 32-year-old was struggling with a sore throat and fever on the opening day of this season’s summit clash against Bengal but instead of opting to sit out he came in to bat down the order and batted for five hours with friend Arpit Vasavada to set the foundation for Saurashtra’s first Ranji Trophy triumph.

Speaking to Mumbai Mirror after the victory, Pujara said he feels that it is his duty to contribute to the success of Saurashtra cricket since this is where his career started.

“When it comes to the Saurashtra team, I also feel that it is my responsibility or my duty. I have grown up in Rajkot and my success has started from the Saurashtra team. So I also believe that this region has given me a lot and if I am able and can serve the state team when available, it will help the team and the players. If you are able to share your guidance, as an international player if you can be helpful to them in some way or the other, the team progresses, and the cricket improves overall,” he was quoted as saying.

While many international cricketers prefer to skip Ranji Trophy matches seeking rest after international matches, Pujara has made it a point to play as many matches as he can for Saurashtra and insists that playing matches was his way to staying with the game.

“Match practice is more important than net practice because you can get out so many times when you are doing net practice, there is no pressure. But when you play in the middle and you make an error as a batsman, whether it is a club or a first-class or an international game, you get one chance, one opportunity as a batsman.

“I try and make sure that I am available for most of the games (for Saurashtra) but yes, at the same time, you have to monitor your workload. As a batsman, I feel I manage that workload really well. Also my fitness has also improved a lot in the last six months to a year’s time,” he added.

Team effort

The 32-year-old said the team had started preparing for this season soon after their loss to Vidarbha and every individual took the responsibility to play their part to perfection.

“I still remember that final. After losing that final (by 78 runs), I spoke to the boys. Jaydev (Unadkat) also had a chat. We were so close to winning the final. We played a little bit of poor cricket and we lost the match. We had a chat that this team has the potential to win the Ranji Trophy, and we are not going to stop at this. We also spoke about the errors which we made, about the things we had to work on.

“Before this season started, we had another chat and we told them specifically that this is the expectation from each and every individual, everyone has a different role to play,” he said.