WTC Finals: Indians have the ability to beat any side in the world – Cheteshwar Pujara
In conversation with Times of India, Indian Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara spoke about the preparations for World Test Championship Finals, Indian bench strength, past experiences in England etc.
The last time India played a Test in Southampton – the venue for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand next month – Cheteshwar Pujara had scored an unbeaten 132. While India lost that game against England, Pujara played his part in keeping his side in the hunt. The 33-year-old will once again be a crucial factor as India looks to win the inaugural WTC crown. During a chat with Times of India (TOI), Pujara spoke on the pandemic, the Indian team’s bench strength in recent times, and more.
How has the pandemic affected your preparation for the England tour?
This is a tough time for everyone across the world, and it’s a situation that happens once in 100 years or more. The fortunate part is that we are able to play and the WTC final is going ahead as per schedule. Even if we are short preparation-wise, I feel the team has enough experience to deliver a strong performance. This Indian team, in recent times, has shown the wherewithal to win on all surfaces and we will carry that confidence into the match against New Zealand and the subsequent Test series against England.
Has there been any change in your training methods since the pandemic started?
When it comes to my batting – you can’t have different methods. But when it comes to training, you have to figure out different ways to do it, especially when you are in quarantine. You have to speak to the trainer to figure out different ideas to keep yourself fit and occupied. The quarantine ahead of every series becomes the most challenging part. The positive thing is that players are eager to train even during the quarantine and that helps us stay in the best shape once we start practice.
Your thoughts on the WTC final?
The Indian team has charted a remarkable journey in the last two years. We have played well to qualify for the final and everyone is looking forward to it. The India-New Zealand final will be a clash between two top-quality sides. It will definitely be a good game as both teams are evenly matched.
What’s your take on the New Zealand attack. Who will be the bowler to look out for?
I don’t want to name any particular bowler in their line-up. Their bowling attack is very well-balanced. We have faced their bowlers before and have a fair idea of how they operate, the angles they use and we will be prepared.
India lost a series to New Zealand last year. Will that give them a psychological edge?
I don’t think so. When we played the Kiwis in 2020, it was in their backyard. That won’t be the case in the WTC final since it’s a neutral venue for both teams. None of the teams will have a home advantage. We have our bases covered and if we play to our potential – then we have the ability to beat any side in the world.
India lost their last Test in Southampton in 2018. Were there any lessons learnt that can help you in this game?
It is difficult to assess one particular game. We were in a commanding position (against England in 2018) and had our chances. But I won’t assess that Test with the WTC final because we are playing a different side this time. The only thing which we need to take from any game is the positive aspects and that’s what I always believe in.
In the last decade that you have been part of the Indian team – is this the strongest bench strength it has ever had?
Absolutely. The amount of talent in the Indian circuit is humongous. Be it our bowling or batting – we have the backup for the players. The Australia series earlier this year was an example. We had so many injuries, but the backup options did well for us to win the series. Everyone in this Indian team is hungry to do well and that’s the sign of a good side.
India last won a Test series in England back in 2007. Do you reckon this is the best chance for the side to win a Test series in England?
For sure, we have the team to win in England. We have been doing well in overseas conditions recently. The confidence in the team is high. In every department of the game – our side has high-quality players and if we are able to execute our plans on the given day – the results will be in our favor against England.
The article was published with no changes to its original piece first published in the Times of India.