India’s Cheteshwar Pujara insisted that the World Test Championship means a lot to him personally owing to him being a one-format player, and revealed that the team has worked extremely hard to get to the summit. Pujara further admitted that NZ will have a slight edge due to match-practice.
Until 2019, being a Test specialist meant that, apart from missing out on the frenzy of white-ball cricket and potentially an IPL contract, there was no scope for red-ball specialists to get their hands on an ICC Trophy. However, the introduction of the World Test Championship (WTC) came as a boon as it not only reinvigorated the format, but also provided the golden opportunity for Test specialists to win an ICC Trophy. In India, the likes of Ishant Sharma, Ravi Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari - all currently Test specialists - have all spoken about the significance of the WTC Final, and now, ahead of the final, Cheteshwar Pujara has provided his thoughts on the same.
Pujara asserted that the WTC Final means a lot to him on a personal front, and added that the whole unit worked incredibly hard to get to where they are currently, one game away from becoming inaugural champions.
"Personally it means a lot to me because I am playing this one format and this is the most challenging format in cricket. We have worked really hard as a team for a period of time to reach here,” Pujara told bcci.tv, reported Hindustan Times.
"So, I am sure all the guys are looking forward to the final and winning this final will mean a lot to us. But even to reach the final the team has worked really hard for two years.”
Team India played the first half of the WTC cycle without restrictions, but played the entirety of the second half in secure bubbles, owing to the challenges posed by the pandemic. But while admitting that bubble-life was stressful, Pujara insisted that the bubble environment strengthened the team bond.
"Playing cricket during the pandemic has been challenging and the guys have been excellent the way we have managed things. I think we have come close enough because of the time spent together in the bubble," Pujara said.
India will take on New Zealand in the WTC Final later this week, and the preparation of both sides has been contrasting. While the Kiwis arrived in England in late May and played a two-Test series against England, team India only arrived in the UK last week and have played a solitary intra-squad warm-up match of medium intensity. Pujara admitted that the Kiwis will walk into the one-off match as the better-prepared team, but asserted that India will be up for the challenge if they utilize the days in lead-up to the fullest.
"They will obviously have an advantage having played two Test matches before the final but when it comes to the final we will give our best and we know that our team has the potential to do well and win the championship.
"So we are not worried about that, we will try and focus on these 10 to 12 days which we have for preparation. We are also going to play a practice game and we will try and make the most of what we have. If we utilise these days well, I feel that our team will be up for the final," Pujara said.