Last year’s brain fade incident and other past controversies between India and Australia have been popular topics of discussion as the two teams prep to play a four-match Test series, starting 6 December. Indian cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara, however, says Virat Kohli and co are concentrating on their game rather than worrying about sledging.
"“I can’t comment on what Australia will do but we would like to stick to the brand of cricket we have been playing. One thing that we’re sure of, is that we’ll play competitive cricket and enjoy our game rather than worry about sledging. When the Test match starts, if it happens, then it happens. But we aren’t focusing on it. What we’re focusing on, is to play good cricket and win the Test series against Australia.”" - Cheteshwar Pujara
Pujara Backs Ashwin to Succeed in Australia
Pujara backed his teammate Ravichandran Ashwin, saying his county cricket stint with Worcestershire has helped him regain confidence. Senior off-spinner Ashwin has struggled on Australian soil, taking 21 wickets at an average of 54.71 in six Tests – a record that is underwhelming when compared to his overall Test statistics of 336 wickets at 25.44.
"“I always say he is a clever bowler, he reads the batsmen really well...I think he has made a lot of changes. I can’t describe what it is...But he has made some adjustments which has helped him. He also has played some county cricket, enough cricket in England, which is obviously overseas, different conditions, not much help for spinners.”" - Cheteshwar Pujara
"So when he plays in Australia, he knows what he has to do, he also has played a series in 2014-15, so he is very confident now and whatever adjustment he had to make, he has already done."
On to the subject of Indian batting and its over-reliance on an in-form Virat Kohli, Pujara insisted there is no extra pressure on the line-up despite losses to England and South Africa.
"It's always about batting as a unit. When you go out there you want to perform to best of your ability rather than thinking whether there is extra pressure or not," he said.
"We have some goals as a batting unit...I don't think there is any pressure on the batting unit. Most of our batters are experienced enough. So we trust our preparation and ability."
On the individual goals for the series, Pujara said experience of playing the last series against Australia in 2016-17 will help his batting.
"When you have faced some bowlers in the past, you know what are their strengths and weaknesses. So it will help me in this series," he said.
"But it will be a fresh start and I don't want to focus too much on what I have done in the past. I am confident but at the same time I would also like to respect the opposition."
‘IPL Has Helped Produce Good Fast Bowlers’
Pujara said that India's current pace attack is among the best to come out of the country and the rich bench strength was probably due to the Indian Premier League.
"Even when it comes to bench strength, if a couple of our fast bowlers are injured, they will have some back up. When it comes to fast bowling this is probably one of the best attacks we have in many years.
"It could be the IPL which has helped produce good fast bowlers and is benefitting the Indian test team at the moment."
Pujara said the team was motivated as ever to win an overseas Test series, particularly for the first time on Australian soil.
“We have been playing good cricket outside India now and this is a very good opportunity for the team to perform well. Being the number one Test team, we always look to win each and every series, and this is no different. We would like to perform well and start off well. We definitely want to win this series but will take one Test at a time.”
There have been many instances of on-field heated exchanges between players of the two teams in the past series. But after the ball-tampering bans on Steve Smith and David Warner, many former cricketers have spoken about bringing a change in Australia's team culture.
In the practice game in Sydney last week, Cricket Australia XI scored 544 runs against India's bowling attack but Pujara said it was not a matter of concern.
"Conceding 500 runs in a warm-up game doesn't mean anything. It wasn't a Test match so we are not worried about it. Our bowlers know what they have to do," he said.
"They know what line and lengths to bowl in Australia, and most of them have played here in 2014-15. As a bowling unit we are very confident and the bowlers will stick to their basics."
India did not train on Monday, 3 December, with the exception of Ashwin and Rohit Sharma who showed up to practice.
(With inputs from PTI)
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