Cheteshwar Pujara: ‘Couldn’t have done anything better against the best ball of the series’

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“If we look at the way our innings was progressing, we were in a comfortable position till I got out”

Cheteshwar Pujara has refused to get drawn into any debate around his scoring rate, after receiving criticism from commentators, pundits and fans alike for his slow half-century which put too much pressure on those batting around him.

Pujara said the difference between the sides was Australia’s accurate and relentless bowling while India had an inexperienced attack that couldn’t maintain the same discipline.

Pujara scored 50 runs in 175 balls, but despite batting only six overs fewer than Australia, India fell behind the hosts’ first-innings total by 94 runs. Pujara’s pace in Tests has often sparked debate, with a suggestion that batting the way he does puts the rest of the side under pressure. Pujara was asked if he could have played more horizontal bat shots – on a day when Ajinkya Rahane got out trying to play one and Rishabh Pant badly injured his elbow playing another – to transfer some pressure back on to the bowlers.

“I thought they bowled good lines and lengths, they had a fair idea of this pitch,” Pujara said. “I think we should give credit to the way they bowled. I felt that they didn’t give too many loose balls. If you look at our bowling line-up, there are guys playing their first and second Test match. So there are learning. They will get better. We are slightly inexperienced, but I think they will get better day by day. It is a good opportunity for them to learn and get better at what they are doing. I am sure they will learn from this.”

Pujara was again asked if during lunch he was given any advice from the team management to try and up the pace, but he avoided a direct answer.

“If we look at the way our innings was progressing, we were in a comfortable position till I got out,” he said. “I think we were 180 for 4 [at one point] and we were doing well. So things turned around when Rishabh and I got out. Then we didn’t score many after that. I thought losing Rishabh was a turnaround. If we had another partnership there, we would have definitely put on a decent total on the board. Our aim was to get 330-340 but yes we missed out. Losing Ajinkya Rahane early was a big blow, but we recovered from there and there was a good partnership with Rishabh.”

Pujara himself got an unplayable delivery from Pat Cummins, which he felt was the ball of the series.

“I think that was the best ball of the series,” Pujara said. “I felt I couldn’t have done anything better even if I was batting on a hundred or a double-hundred. I don’t think I could have survived that particular ball, which kicked off back of a length. I had to play that ball. And there was extra bounce. It was just one ball that was really good. To be honest I couldn’t get away with that. You just have to accept it.”

Cummins has now got Pujara out four times in the series for just 19 runs off 129 deliveries. “Pat Cummins has been bowling well throughout the series,” Pujara said. “He is ranked No. 1 at the moment. He is proving that. Again and again he is coming hard at us. Bowling the right areas. You have to give credit to the way he is bowling.

“You hope that at some point he will make an error and as a batting unit we will get through this. I am very confident it is a matter of time. We have been batting well in patches. It is about collective effort from the batting unit. If all of us come together, we have a good chance of doing well. As a batting unit we are confident but credit goes to the way the Aussies bowled today.”

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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