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Playing county helps you grow as a cricketer: Cheteshwar Pujara

CHENNAI: Cheteshwar Pujara has enjoyed a great run in the last 12 months. The 29-year-old was one of the standout performers at the recently-concluded Test series in Sri Lanka – scoring 309 runs in three games which included two centuries. Pujara spoke on what makes the current Indian team an all-conquering unit, the importance of county cricket and more. Going into the Test series, I wanted to continue batting the way I have in the last one-and-half years. I was well-prepared for it since I went to play county cricket (for Nottinghamshire) ahead of the series. Also, I had played in Lanka during the 2015 series and that gave me a lot of confidence. Playing county cricket is about being in that environment and batting on those wickets which seam and have a bit of bounce. It’s all about getting the experience and nothing related to your technique. Once you reach a certain point (in your career), your technique is very much decided and all you need to do is fine-tune it. If you start playing county cricket, you start having an idea about how to perform in those conditions. I believe county cricket helps you grow as a cricketer. I feel if you want to play Test cricket and aim to do well in different venues, then county cricket is the way to go. In the coming weeks, I will be heading back to play a few more games for my county. Not just looking at the 2019 World Cup, but to develop as a cricketer it is important to have some county experience. Whether it is ODI players or T20 or Test cricketers, whenever there is an opportunity they should go and play some county matches for sure. I think each member of the side has contributed to its success. If you look at our batting, each one has stood up and made themselves counted. At times when the top-order succeeds, we end up getting a total of around 400 on board. However, when the lower-middle order scores runs, that’s where we start to score in excess of 600. The difference between 400 and 600 is just huge. When you score 600, the opposition will always be under pressure even if they bat well to reach that total. Also, this Indian team’s bench strength is quite strong. Whoever has come into the playing XI has gone on to make a contribution. Players such as Kuldeep Yadav, Jayant Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Karun Nair and even Abhinav Mukund have all performed when given opportunities. Even in our fast bowling department, Umesh and Shami have been bowling well. Ravi bhai is someone who gives players enough freedom and at the same time knows what is needed for the players to be in the best possible shape ahead of any game. He makes players feel welcome and players understand their roles in the side. I haven’t had any discussion yet, but I will definitely have a chat with him. Personally, I am very confident that I can play in all formats. I have been working hard on my game, and in time to come the results will follow.

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