Cheteshwar Pujara, the India batsman, has said that it is important for the country's young players to get a chance to tour abroad so they can learn how to adapt to different conditions. Pujara captained India A on their tour of England in 2010 as a 22-year-old, and it was his prolific form during that series that led to his inclusion in the India squad to face Australia later the same year.
"When we were playing against the England team, they had a few international players like Jonathan Trott [and Ian Bell] and a few fast bowlers [Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett, Sajid Mahmood] as well," Pujara told ESPNcricinfo. "Being a youngster, if you play them in their home conditions and you do well, you get confidence out of it."
With India's eight away Tests losses to England and Australia over the last nine months as a backdrop, the BCCI recently announced a number of India A and Under-19 tours of the West Indies, England, Australia and South Africa over the next few years. Pujara believes these tours will provide the players with the necessary experience they need to succeed overseas. "Once you experience [those conditions], then you can make a few changes to your technique," he said. "Once you face those conditions, then you know what to do."
Pujara, who also toured South Africa with the senior side in 2010-11, said one of the crucial lessons he has learned is that a batsman needs to get through the new ball in places like England and Australia - something that has continued to be a problem for batsmen on the ongoing tour down under - before attempting to play his shots. "When the ball gets old, then you can score runs easily. You can't play drives on the up when the ball is new." According to him, it takes three or four good net sessions, or a practice match, to switch from the more attacking approach used in the subcontinent to the more watchful approach that is needed when the ball is seaming and bouncing.
Having recently returned to action after more than six months away from cricket following knee surgery for an injury he picked up in the IPL last season, Pujara is eager to regain his place in the national side, but said for the moment he is concentrating solely on playing good cricket. He also rejected the notion that the next generation of players are more concerned about playing in the IPL than they are about international cricket. "If you look at the positive side of it, the IPL has given a lot of youngsters the opportunity to play international cricket," he said. "It is an opportunity for them to display their talents."
Another of the IPL's benefits is that it has given India's domestic players the chance to rub shoulders with some of the best international cricketers from around the world. Pujara reckons this not only gives the players a chance to learn from team-mates they might otherwise never have met, but also provides a big boost of confidence given the high level of competition. As for players skipping international tours after picking up injuries during the IPL, Pujara said it was unfair to blame the IPL. "Fitness depends on the individual," he said. "Injuries can happen at any time, any format and in any country."
On Monday, Pujara became the third cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir to be signed on by World Sport Group (WSG) under its player management programme. He said having an agent to manage his commercial and off-field interests would give him the luxury of devoting his attention entirely to the job of playing cricket. "I am glad to be in the able hands of WSG, and can now focus completely on performing better and cementing my place in the national squad."