Cheteshwar Pujara hammered – yes, hammered – a maiden Twenty20 century on Thursday, 21 February, to break notions that he is a long-format specialist.
Pujara played the last of his five one-day internationals in June 2014, and is yet to make his Twenty20 International debut. He has, however, been a force in Test cricket, and scored three centuries in Australia in December and January to help India seal a historic series win Down Under.
His expertise in the longest format, however, has resulted in him being pigeonholed as a Test cricketer. On Thursday, Pujara finally took a step towards changing those perceptions.
Is there anything Cheteshwar Pujara can't do?— ICC (@ICC) January 20, 2019
His latest incredible feat was to inspire his domestic side Saurashtra to a record Ranji Trophy chase.
He scored a 61-ball 100 for Saurashtra against Railways in India’s domestic T20 competition – the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy – and while his knock couldn’t help his side to victory, it did represent something of a personal win.
“I am not surprised by this century, but I am sure many people are,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “I knew this one would come at some stage in my career, and this is the right time. I have been really batting well. Good form in Test cricket can help you bat well in shorter formats. It helps you get into good positions, you pick the ball early. So I am really happy.”
Pujara’s knock comprised 14 fours and even a six, but he maintained that they had all been “cricketing shots”. In fact, he cited the batting of Kane Williamson, which he looks up to in shorter formats.
But with such results, if I can carry on like this, people will start noticing.
“The prime example I could give you is of Kane Williamson,” he said. “If you look at his T20 batting – he even got an Orange Cap (given to the highest run-scorer) in the IPL (2018) – most of his shots are cricketing shots. That is what I look up to.
“I like to make runs similarly. If I have to play unorthodox shots, then I will work on it if the format requires that. I am not against that, but my success has been with cricketing shots and I will stick to that as long as I can.”
'Most important thing is the Test championship' – Cheteshwar Pujara says India will be a 'different unit' in overseas Tests after their win in Australia.— ICC (@ICC) January 20, 2019
Pujara was largely nonchalant about it all, but he did voice another hope: He has gone unsold in IPL auctions over the last two years, but believed more of such knocks can change that. “I put my name in because somewhere down the line I am very confident about playing white ball, whether it is ODI or T20,” he said.
“If I am not picked, I am not picked. But with such results, if I can carry on like this, people will start noticing. Even franchises might take notice. If I am still not picked, I will carry on doing things I am doing. I don't want to change anyone's perceptions.”
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