Indian Test batter Cheteshwar Pujara said batting with a fearless approach has allowed him to enjoy the game even more. The 33-year-old last scored a Test century in January 2019 but is not worried about personal landmarks until he is making match-winning contributions.
So, does he think that his aggressive approach in England Tests after facing criticism for 'lack of intent', helped him?
"Yes, I feel so. When it comes to performing, the mindset was a little different but when it comes to technique I don't think there was a major change in technique. It was just the approach and I was a little fearless which helps. So far preparations for the New Zealand series has been good and I’ll look to carry that same fearless mindset against the Kiwis as well," said Pujara.
He did admit in a roundabout manner that he was putting too much pressure on himself earlier, which has changed since he scored 91 and 61 at Leeds and Oval at a decent clip. "You don't need to put too much pressure on yourself and just try and go there and enjoy the game rather than worrying too much about what's going around.
"That was the mindset during the England series. So far preparation has been good and experiences of playing in Indian conditions will help in the next couple of Tests," the senior batter, who will be vice captain for the series-opener, said.
"As far as my hundred is concerned, when it has to happen it will happen. My job is to bat well for the team and it's not that I haven't been getting runs. I have got 80s and 90s. As long as I am batting well and contributing for the team, I am not bothered about my hundred. It's a matter of one innings."
Pujara believes that added responsibility always helps. “Added responsibility can work in your favour as you can share experience with youngsters. Even when I am not vice-captain, I try and share my experiences as much as I can and the ultimate focus is about the Indian team."
Virat Kohli has been rested for the first Test and Ajinkya Rahane will lead the side in his absence. The latter himself hasn’t been in great form of late, having managed only 644 runs in his last 15 Tests at an average of 24.77. However, Pujara is confident that a quality player like him won't stay quiet for a long time.
"He is a great player but there are times when a player goes through tough times and that's part of the game. So there will be ups and downs but he is a confident player, one who works very hard on his game and I am very sure he is just one innings away from getting a big score.
"Once he gets a big hundred, he will be back in form. He has been working hard in the nets and I have been seeing the way he has been batting. He is in good touch."
Rahul Dravid's entry into the dressing room is a win-win situation for Pujara, whose game is modelled on current India head coach's tight defensive technique.
"It will help most of the players, especially young players who have worked with Rahul bhai during U-19 and India A days. Even experienced players like us, I have played with Rahul bhai. I have worked with him during the A series, so all of us are looking forward to his guidance. The amount of experience he has as a player and coach of the team, helps."
Talking about Shubman Gill's batting position, Pujara said: "Can’t reveal that at this stage. But see, he is a talented player and definitely he will be part of the team. So someone like him, you know he doesn’t need to worry too much, he has been playing good cricket for a couple of years since he has made his debut. It was unfortunate that he missed out on England, but he is a talented player, and I don’t think personally I will need to tell him much.
"Rahul bhai is there, he will give the best guidance. So I think he will just have to play his natural game. I can’t reveal the position he will bat at, but he is well prepared and I am sure he is looking forward to this series."
(With inputs from PTI)