Cheteshwar Pujara, who has not played an IPL game in six years, feels that the perception of him being a Test cricketer has enormously hurt his reputation in white-ball cricket. Pujara has stated that he can only prove his credibility in white-ball cricket if and when he’s given an opportunity.
In a country filled with cricketers hungry to play the T20 format and catapult to the spotlight, Cheteshwar Pujara is often seen as an anomaly. A soft-spoken cricketer on the outside, Pujara’s dedication and love towards red-ball cricket, which is embodied in the way he goes about his batting, and his disregard for aggressive cricket, has convinced fans that the right-hander is a classic 80s man who wants nothing to do with the term ‘limited-overs’.
However, according to Pujara himself, this perception is wrong and has hurt his prospects in the game’s shorter formats. Talking to PTI, the 32-year-old, who averages 54 in List A cricket, revealed that the ‘Test batsman’ reputation has stopped the selectors from giving him opportunities in white-ball cricket. Pujara, who scored a century in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy last year, pleaded for more opportunities in the shorter formats and claimed that he can only prove his worth if he’s given a chance.
“I would say yes, it's a perception being tagged as a Test player and I can't do much about it. "I have always said that I should get opportunities and once I get opportunities, then only I can prove myself as white ball cricketer. I have performed well in List A cricket (average of 54), also in domestic T20s (century in Mushtaq Ali Trophy). I have done well in List A games in England,” Pujara told PTI.
"Performance is something which I can control and I will do that. Only thing I can do is wait for my opportunity. I am more than happy to play all formats. As long as I am playing the game, I will remain a student of the game as there is no end to what you can learn. But as and when I get an opportunity, then only I can change the perception.”
Despite boasting a ‘slow batsman’ reputation, Pujara did, however, manage to play 30 IPL games between 2010 and 2014, the last of which came for Punjab at the Wankhede Stadium in 2014. Since then, the 32-year-old has gone unsold year after year, but the former KKR and KXIP batsman insisted that he has no regrets or ‘ego’ over going unsold.
"As a cricketer, I can't have that opinion. Also I feel that I am someone who will never have such egos because I have seen and known IPL auctions to be tricky,
"I have seen world class players like Hashim Amla go unsold at the auctions. There have been lot of good T20 players, who have missed out on auction. So I don't have any big ego that they are not picking me. Yes, given a choice I would like to play IPL”
If not for the pandemic, Pujara would have turned up in County cricket for Gloucestershire, with whom he penned a six-match deal earlier this year. The right-hander expressed his disappointment over missing out on the stint but admitted that he is not ‘frustrated’ due to the enormity of the situation which forced his contract to be terminated.
"Disappointed 'Yes' but frustrating 'No'. I haven't been able to go to UK not because I didn't want to play or they didn't want me but because of the situation which is same for all cricketers,” said Pujara on having his Gloucestershire deal cancelled.
"I have to understand these are tough times. It is more important to be with family and stay safe and not worry too much about not getting too much match practice. There are people, who have endured way more difficulties.”