County cricket teaches you a lot and helps you grow as a cricketer, says Cheteshwar Pujara as the Indian batsman emphasised the benefits of playing in England’s domestic competition after scoring his 12th Test century.
Pujara scored 153 in India’s mammoth 600 against Sri Lanka in the opening Test.
“Playing County cricket is always challenging. So you never get easy runs. Most of the times, you are playing on challenging wickets. So as a cricketer, it teaches you a lot.
You grow as a cricketer, your technique improves and when you come and play international cricket again, you have some experience of playing first-class cricket and you are always in touch with the game. So playing some County games did help me,” Pujara, who played for Northamptonshire, said.
“I played about four County matches which always helps.
When I have some time in between Test matches and if I am not part of the IPL, I prefer to go and play some County matches.
It gives me exposure, playing in different conditions, facing different bowlers,” he added.
Pujara, though, rated the hundred he made against Sri Lanka at Colombo in the previous tour in 2015, above today’s effort.
“As a batsman, you always want to perform well on challenging pitches. Especially when I got my 145, it was at SSC, that particular wicket was more challenging than this one. When you score a hundred on such wickets, it is more satisfying than this one. But when you are doing a job for the team, I always enjoy scoring hundreds.”
Sri Lanka put in a concerted effort in the morning session to bowl better than they did on day one and scalped four wickets. However, Hardik Pandya came out to bat at no.8 and struck his maiden half-century to maintain India s dominant position.
“He’s a very good all-rounder. When it comes to his batting, he is trusting his strengths. The way he was batting, I think that is the way he should be batting going ahead. It was the right situation for him.
“I think he could dominate the bowlers, play his shots and specially when he is playing with the tail-enders, that’s the way he should be playing. And he has showcased that even at the highest level. Being an allrounder it always helps for the team because we need someone who can bowl ten overs in a day if there is an opportunity. So someone like him who can bat well and give us 8-10 overs in a day, he is the perfect all-rounder for us,” said Pujara.
The Lankan top-order collapse in the final session of play was surprising given the flat nature of the wicket. But Indian bowlers held a nagging line and never let the opposition get away.
“I think the key for us, even in the last season, was that we have bowled really well. Our bowlers are bowling good lines and lengths. On this wicket, you know what areas to bowl on, even the batsmen they had some inputs on what kind of line and length we can bowl.
“There is some assistance as well for the spinners.
Ashwin and Jadeja both have been bowling really well even in the last season and they’ve continued that. I think our bowlers, they’ve bowled better lines and lengths (thank Sri Lankan bowlers) and I think tomorrow onwards, we’ll see a little more turn on this wicket. The pitch is drying up, so there will be more assistance tomorrow onwards,” said Pujara.
Pujara and Shikhar Dhawan, who scored 190 runs, had added 253 runs for the second wicket on day one after India won the toss and opted to bat first. Their partnership was crucial in setting up this huge total.
“The way my partnership was with Shikhar Dhawan, I think both of us batted really well, especially him. The way he started off yesterday, it was challenging for him, he was making a comeback and the way he batted, and it was a pleasure to watch from the other end.
“Playing against spin, I think as Indian batsmen, we have enough exposure playing in the domestic circuit. That is the reason all our batsmen have been batting well.
“When you start off well, it always put the opposition on the back foot. We stuck to our strength, we focussed on the things that we wanted to and we excelled as a team,” Pujara signed off.