Cheteshwar Pujara, who represented India in ODI cricket just 5 times, expressed disappointment over not getting a longer rope in 50-over cricket and said that he’d have become a better ODI batsman had he been given an extended run. Pujara’s last ODI appearance came in 2014 against Bangladesh.
The Cheteshwar Pujara of 2021 is seen as a one-format Test specialist, but the Saurashtra batsman has always been an able 50-over accumulator, proven by his List A average of 54.20. In the early 2010s, Pujara was tearing List A competitions in the country apart and hence was handed an ODI debut in 2013 against Zimbabwe, by which time he was already a Test regular. Pujara’s ODI career got off to the most unremarkable of starts, with him posting scores of 13, 0, 0, 11, and 27 in his first five games at an SR of 39.23, and as a result of the same he was axed, post which he never got a look into 50-over international cricket ever again.
Pujara’s ODI career is not something that’s widely discussed, but speaking to Cricbuzz ahead of the IPL season, the 33-year-old expressed disappointment in not getting a longer rope in 50-over cricket. Reflecting on his bleak ODI career, Pujara pointed out how he played each of his five matches away and claimed that he would have improved as a batsman had he been given a longer run.
“I can't say on the World Cup. What I would say is that I got a few opportunities for the ODI team and then I was left out,” Pujara told Cricbuzz, speaking of his ODI career.
“If I had a longer run in the shorter format, I would have become a better ODI cricketer, without doubt. By the way, all my ODI games were away from India.”
A reason behind him getting all but no opportunities in the shorter formats, Pujara believes, is the perception that he is a ‘Test specialist’. The 33-year-old’s last prominent white-ball appearance - be it in international cricket or the IPL - came way back in 2014, post which he has largely been seen and used as a red-ball specialist.
“There has been a perception that those who play more of Test cricket are usually ignored in the shorter format. So even if you want to prove your abilities as a T20 or a white-ball player, you get very limited opportunities. When a white-ball tournament is happening in the domestic circuit, I would be busy playing for the Indian team.
“But when I had a chance to play white-ball games in county cricket, I actually performed well. I know I can do well here but I have not had sufficient opportunities to showcase the talent. When Mushtaq Ali or Vijay Hazare tournaments happen, I would be busy with the national team most of the times,” Pujara admitted.
Due to this mystery factor of Pujara not having Tier 1 white-ball cricket for close to 7 years, there is an air of uncertainty over how he will fare for Chennai Super Kings this season, but the 33-year-old attested with confidence that he will impress one and all. Pujara insisted that CSK is a match made in heaven for him and added that playing in the IPL will help him grow as a cricketer.
“I don't overrate myself as a T20 player. I can't say where I stand as a T20 cricketer but as a cricketer, I am in much better space. Having played a lot of cricket at the international level, I am very confident I will do well in the shorter format too. I feel I am part of the right setup in the IPL. That is the best thing that could have happened to me.
“The franchise, its captain and support staff..., there are many people who can guide me to do well. I also understand the game well now and I also know what to do in the IPL. I love playing cricket, I don't want to miss out on any format. I am glad that I am part of the IPL now and it can only help me grow as a cricketer.”
Pujara and CSK will kick-start their IPL 2021 campaign against Delhi Capitals at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, April 10.