FOCUSING ON GRASSROOTS
“All these things haven’t happened overnight. It’s a process which has taken some time.” © Getty
Accolades have been pouring in for Cheteshwar Pujara ever since India’s Test No. 3 enjoyed the most prolific overseas tour of his career in Australia by slamming three hundreds in four Tests. The latest to join the Pujara ‘fan club’ is none other than Sachin Tendulkar.
On Wednesday, when the batting legend was quizzed on the one factor that stood out during India’s maiden 2-1 Test series triumph in Australia, he replied: “It’s difficult to pick one moment, but Pujara has been really outstanding. There were a number of statements about him which weren’t in his favour and kind of undermined his contribution. The bowlers have done extremely well too, but I think somewhere Pujara has been instrumental in laying that solid foundation on which a number of guys who got runs. If I’ve to pinpoint that one guy, then Pujara stands out along with the fast bowlers.”
On three successive overseas tours in the past year – South Africa, England and Australia – the Indian fast bowlers have done exceedingly well. The competition in the pace department is so tough now that Bhuvneshwar Kumar couldn’t get a Test in Australia, while Umesh Yadav got to play only in Perth. For a land that produced quality spinners, but not enough quality pacers, this has been a welcome development. Tendulkar had an interesting take on what exactly led to this ‘cultural change’.
“More awareness about your diet, training methods. Accessibility to information. These factors have contributed a lot. Not to forget the infrastructure, which is extremely good. I hope we continue to provide better and better facilities to the players. All these things haven’t happened overnight. It’s a process which has taken some time.”
Tendulkar reckoned that the ability to bowl hostile spells with both the new ball and the old one is what goes in favour of the current lot of India’s pacers. “We’ve got quality fast bowlers. At the same time, the guys (pacers) are very talented. What you also want is for your fast bowlers to bowl hostile spells in patches. And that has happened frequently. It wasn’t just about the new ball, but also with the old one. And how consistently one can bowl 140-plus. I can say that we’ve a competitive attack for any part of the world, on any surface,” he gushed.
The 45-year-old also hailed the brand of cricket that India played. “Whatever your age is, you want heroes in life. I think results like these are really important. I still remember that when I was a 10-year-old, and didn’t know much about cricket. But I knew that we’d won the World Cup. And that’s where my journey started. Hopefully, there are many journeys which would’ve started already,” he praised.
The maestro also advised the BCCI to make bowler-friendly wickets in domestic cricket. “Domestic cricket should be played on more challenging wickets for batters. It would help lift the standard of play. I’ve always felt that if you played on good, difficult tracks, your standard of playing automatically goes up. That’s what I’d always expect our domestic cricket to do. Keep surfaces which are challenging for batters. But that doesn’t mean that the bowlers should just roll their arm over to get their wickets,” he stated.