India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara for long has been labelled as a Test batsman and according to former India opener Virender Sehwag, the time has come for Pujara to improve his skills in the shortest format of the game in order to earn an IPL contract. Pujara remained unsold in the IPL player's auction this year and this is the third successive year that he didn't find any takers in the Indian Premier League. Replying to a question which sought to draw parallels between Hashim Amla and Pujara, Sehwag said, "Amla knows how to adapt to different formats, he knows how to play in what situation. As far as Pujara is concerned, he played for us but may be the hopes we had from him he did not come up to that expectations.
"But this happens when you play only one format, it becomes difficult to play in other formats. Pujara's reputation is that of a wonderful Test batsman and not T20. Hope in coming years, he will improve his skills for the shorter format and hope he gets picked by some team next year."
Pujara last took part in the IPL in 2014 where he played for the Kings XI Punjab. He has also featured for Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore but never could manage to seal his place.
Sehwag, who is the head coach of Kings XI Punjab, heaped praise on Amla, describing him as an asset.
"Amla is among top five to six batsmen in world cricket. He is an asset. He is talking to youngsters like Manan Vohra and results are coming. He is a nice person and a great player," he said.
Sehwag, who was addressing a news conference ahead of his side's clash against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday, advised the youngsters to play their natural game and learn from experienced cricketers but never copy them.
Asked what is his advice to youngsters who want to bat like him or KXIP skipper Glenn Maxwell, Sehwag replied, "I tell them only one thing, Manan Vohra can bat like Manan Vohra and not like Virender Sehwag or Maxwell. Youngsters should know about their strengths as also their weaknesses. When you know that it becomes easy for you to bat or bowl.
"I also wanted to become Sachin Tendulkar, but I quickly realised that I cannot become like him and cannot give the performance the way he did or play shots as him. I had to create my own image and I played what was natural for me.
"This is the advice I give the youngsters. I tell them that you can learn from other players, but you cannot copy them. Be what you are, this is what I tell them," said Sehwag, who played 104 Tests and 251 ODIs for India.
Asked how he grooms young Indian players, Sehwag said, "I tell them people will give them advice, but their job is to take the best advice and adapt the same in their batting or bowling. In our country, everyone gives advice but the player should take what suits him as an individual.
"I speak to players and tell them to be mentally tough because one can improve skills, but to be mentally strong it takes years for that. And when one becomes mentally tough, it helps your self-confidence and self-belief," he said.
KXIP has won just three games out of seven so far and their next match is against defending champions Hyderabad and Sehwag said that all upcoming matches are going to be crucial for the team.
"Out of remaining seven matches we will have to win 4-5, only then can we qualify for the playoffs. What is more important than the win is the process to achieve that, which is playing good cricket in all departments. In the last match, we showed that," he said.
"What sometimes happens in a long tournament is that you seldom tend to give a consistent performance, but when your bowlers perform and batting unit clicks, then win becomes easy."
With Punjab boosting of players like Maxwell, Amla, David Miller, Shaun Marsh and Manan Vohra in the side, Sehwag said batting is his team's strength.
"I feel among the batting lot we depend on our foreign players. Even if two out of the four foreign players perform, we tend to be in good position," he said.
Asked if KXIP's failure to win the title so far affects his players, Sehwag said: "When we meet, we talk that we have to win the championship. The goal can be achieved in only one way, which is performance.
"My responsibility is to create an environment in which a player gives his best performance. I can create such environment in the dressing room and in the team, but I cannot go out and perform for them," he said.
(With PTI Inputs)