As his quest to find a permanent spot in India's One-day side continues, Cheteshwar Pujara has also started bowling in order to fit the bill for ODI selection and said a good showing in IPL could see him on the plane to Australia and New Zealand for next year's World Cup.
"I have also started bowling in nets so that I can contribute as a part-time bowler. I want to help my team with part-time bowling if the captain wants me to. I am looking to bring improvement in my game, most important being playing on the rise. I am targeting specific areas, which include analysis of my batting and what mistakes I am committing in the middle. It will help me in the longer run," Pujara told PTI in an interview.
Pujara said he is also looking forward to the upcoming Indian Premier League. "If I can prove myself in the IPL, I am confident that I can get success in ODIs too. I had played a couple of good innings for my last franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore which proved that I have the talent to excel in the shortest format also. It's all about getting more opportunities in the coming future. I am looking forward to have a successful IPL," the middle-order batsman said.
Ever since making his debut in the 50-over format against Zimbabwe last year in August, Pujara has only played two ODIs and his non-inclusion for the dead rubber against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup left many flabbergasted. Former captain Sunil Gavaskar slammed the team management for not experimenting with the playing XI by including Pujara and medium pacer Ishwar Pandey in the match against Afghanistan, and even went on to say that the fear of reserve players succeeding over "current favourites" prompted the management to play the same team.
The Indian batsmen were found wanting against quality pace attacks in South Africa and New Zealand, but the team management decided not to tinker with the 'balanced' side. Pujara has all the makings of becoming one of India's most consistent players in both forms of the game, provided he gets the opportunity to showcase his batting prowess in the ODI format, too. He averages 55 in List A matches and his impressive strike rate resulted in many double and triple hundreds
His solid performance in the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy 2012-13, where he hit two hundreds and a fifty in three innings, led to his call-up for India's tour of Zimbabwe, but the Saurashtra batsman didn't get enough opportunities thereafter. With the focus on building the team for next year's World Cup in Australia-New Zealand, Pujara knows that he has limited time on his hand. "It's all about getting more and more opportunities. I have the ability to perform in all three formats of the game," he said.
Pujara has become a permanent fixture of India's Test side, succeeding Rahul Dravid at No.3. He has an outstanding Test average of around 60, with six hundreds and four fifties. He has been signed up by Kings XI Punjab for the seventh edition of IPL. "It's a perception. I have a good ODI domestic record. I have scored runs at an impressive strike rate in domestic matches. So, I don't think it would be a problem for me adjusting to the T20 format," he said.
"In Twenty20, people expect big shots from you. I need to be aggressive from the first ball. I have to take my chances. I have started my preparation and the good part is there's still a month left before the tournament gets underway," he added.
Pujara said he is happy to become part of Kings XI Punjab franchise. "I am looking forward to my association with Kings XI Punjab. I believe playing for KXIP will give me more exposure and experience. I have always loved the streets of Chandigarh city. I have played quite a few domestic games there and somewhere, I have this hidden love for the city," he signed off.