Monday, November 30, 2020
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Australia vs India 2020-21 – Cheteshwar Pujara says India ‘have every chance of winning Test series again’

Australia vs India 2020-21 - Cheteshwar Pujara says India 'have every chance of winning Test series again'
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Cheteshwar Pujara says India have “every chance of winning” the Test series again in Australia, if they can repeat what they did in 2018-19. While he agrees David Warner and Steven Smith‘s presence – after they missed the 2018-19 series due to the ball-tampering ban – adds more heft to Australia, Pujara has linked India’s potential success to their bowlers who, he believes, can work up the magic again.

Jasprit Bumrah‘s 21 wickets were the joint-best tally with Nathan Lyon in their previous series down under, while Mohammed Shami‘s 16 was a close second.

“It (the Australian batting line-up) will be a little stronger than what it was in 2018-19, but then victories don’t come easy. If you want to win away from home, you need to work hard,” Pujara told PTI. “No doubt Smith, Warner and Marnus Labuschagne are great players. But the good part about our current crop of bowlers is that most of them play in the same series, and our bowling unit will also not be very different to what it was in 2018-19.

“They know how to be successful in Australia as they have enjoyed success there in the past. They have their game-plans in place and if we can execute them well, they are capable of getting Smith, Warner and Labuschagne out quickly. If we can do what we have done in the past, I am sure we have every chance of winning the series again.”

Bumrah and Shami had set up the series by picking up six wickets between them in a tight second innings to open the series with a 31-run win in Adelaide. Although Australia hit back in the second Test in Perth with a 146-run win, India’s fast bowlers proved to be relentless in the third Test at the MCG, where Australia conceded 443.

Bumrah was particularly sensational, picking nine wickets in the game – including 6 for 33 in the first innings – to ensure a massive first-innings lead for the visitors. As a result, India won by 137 runs to take an unassailable lead in the series. Following that win, Virat Kohli had paid the biggest compliment a captain can to his bowlers when he said he only sat and listened in bowlers’ meetings.

Pujara’s contribution itself wasn’t any less significant. He struck three centuries in a series tally of 521 runs across seven innings – his 123 and 71 in Adelaide had earned him the Man-of-the-Match award – while Rishabh Pant’s 350 runs were a distant second. Contrarily, no Australia batsman had made more than Marcus Harris’ 258 runs in the series, mirroring the kind of dominance India’s bowlers enjoyed.

This time, India open with a day-night Test in Adelaide, their first on foreign soil. India’s lone pink-ball Test had ended in a little over two days last year, with the visiting Bangladesh team offering little fight on the face of some dominating Indian bowling, especially from Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, in Kolkata.

But Pujara believes Adelaide will be a “different challenge” because the surface will be different. “It will be a different challenge altogether playing with the pink ball as the pace and bounce also change,” he said. “We will be playing with the pink Kookaburra in Australia (against Bangladesh, India played with the pink SG ball). It will be slightly different.

“As a team and as individuals, one has to understand and accept and get used to it (pink ball and lights) as early [as] possible. There will be a bit of difference with the pink ball. The twilight period is more challenging than other periods, but as you play more and practice more, you get used to it. It does take a little while.”

Pujara is one of only two members of the Test squad who hasn’t had any match time for over ten months. He last featured for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy final against Bengal in March, straight out of a long flight from New Zealand. With him and Hanuma Vihari not part of the IPL, the pair arrived in Dubai early and trained for a week before departing for Australia with the rest of the squad.

For a better part of the last five months since lockdown restrictions were slightly eased in India, Pujara has trained at his academy in the outskirts of Rajkot, along with a few members of Saurashtra’s Ranji Trophy-winning squad. With domestic cricket in India yet to resume, he hasn’t had any match time – but that isn’t something he is worried about.

“Even during the last tour, my preparation was good. I am confident that I will be able to repeat the same preparation before this series also,” Pujara said. With 5840 runs at present, he will also be hoping to go well beyond 6000 Test runs while in Australia. “I always try and add a few more things in my game, which will help me get better.”

Does the lack of match time in India bother him? “Look, this is a situation that has impacted millions of lives and people have lost lives. In normal circumstances, we would have played domestic cricket and gone to Australia, but everyone needs to think about safety and security. As far as I am concerned, I am happy if I am able to practice, do my fitness, running sessions and move my body well, which I did.”



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