Pujara backs Kohli as a 'great leader'

Indo Asian News Service

Dharamsala, March 23 (IANS) Ahead of the deciding fourth and final cricket Test against Australia, starting on Saturday, Indian middle order mainstay batsman Cheteshwar Pujara on Thursday said the mind games played by the Kangaroos won't work with the side led by Virat Kohli.

Hailing the 28-year-old Kohli as a "great leader", Pujara, who scored a magnificent double-hundred in the previous Test in Ranchi, said the team's sole focus is on the game and nothing else.

Pujara's comments came after some members of the Australian side, including skipper Steven Smith and even Cricket Australia (CA) chief James Sutherland, left no stones unturned to take digs at the India skipper.

"It is really sad to hear such comments. We fully support Virat Kohli and he is one of the great ambassadors of the game," Pujara told reporters here.

"I think the focus has shifted somewhere else which shouldn't have happened. We are very much focused on the game and he is a great leader. We are looking forward to the next game rather than worrying about anything else," the Saurashtra batsman added.

The 29-year-old right-hander, who faced the maximum deliveries by an Indian batsman in a single Test innings during his marathon 525-ball knock of 202 in Ranchi, spanning over 11 hours, attributed his knock to the hard work he had put in from his tender days as a cricketer.

"I think when it comes to patience, it is all hard work. I started playing cricket at the age of eight and then I played first (representative) game for the state team at the age of 13. Since then, I have been playing this format and I think it's the experience of playing domestic circuit and working hard, day in and day out is paying off now," he said.

"I can say that at times, I am in that zone where things are happening for me because of that experience, because I know how to do things, how to continue batting and how to continue concentrating for a longer period of time."

"I don't really think when I am batting out there in the middle. I try and keep my mind really blank," he added.

Pujara also stressed on the importance of recovery, which he said helps him for spending hours at the crease.

"I focus on my diet. I try and sleep on time and have a good sleep. Do some recovery sessions, have a massage. Those sort of things. I have some routines once the match finishes. I try and focus on that. I give a lot of importance to recovery," he said.

Commenting on the nature of wicket at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium, which is hosting a Test match for the maiden time, Pujara said: "It looks like a good wicket. I think we have played a lot of cricket even in Dharamsala."

"We have played enough first-class cricket to know the conditions. We will just try and focus on things which want to focus on rather than worrying about how the wicket will play. We have played enough cricket on different pitches throughout the season," he added.

--IANS

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