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IPL Staff in Mumbai 03 April 2014 - 04:52pm IST

Pujara all set to don KXIP colours

Classical top-order batsman gears up for T20 format

Mainstay of the India line-up in the longest format of the game, Cheteshwar Pujara is keen to make an impact in the shortest format now. The Saurashtra batsman, who is in Mumbai for playing in the BCCI T20 League, said that he has been working to adapt to the Twenty20 format.

The top-order batsman, who will be turning out for Kings XI Punjab in the 2014 edition of the Pepsi Indian Premier League, said that playing in the ongoing zonal domestic T20 tournament is good preparation ahead of the IPL. “I think before IPL it is good for preparation and the wickets are challenging. So it is not easy to score runs, but I had a good outing yesterday (against Mumbai at BKC). It is unfortunate that we haven't won any of the games so far. But still, it is an inexperienced side; we haven’t played too many T20 games, so the guys are still learning. But personally speaking, it is good to play these matches before the IPL.”

Pujara, who was with the Royal Challengers Bangalore before being recruited by KXIP, is looking forward to his new team. He said, “It’s a new team. It looks like a very good team on paper, so we will have to execute. The kind of players that are there in KXIP, like Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Viru (Virender Sehwag) Bhai, etc, it is a good team. There are quite a few good players, but it is important that we do well as a unit. You still need to execute things on the field.”

Speaking about preparing as a team, he mentioned, “We have a camp coming up, so we will have some time to prepare before the tournament starts. It will initially be at Chandigarh and then few days of practice in Dubai also.”

When asked about possibly featuring in KXIP's playing XI as compared to his days with RCB where he was not a regular starter, Pujara elaborated, “When you have big players like Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli and others, all of whom are doing really well, then youngsters like me, who are just coming up and haven’t played many ODIs or T20s, find it difficult to get into the XI. But in teams like KXIP I might get more opportunities to play in the playing XI. I am hopeful. The preparation is good so far.”

Discussing his preparation for the shortest format, he said, “I was with the Indian team for the ODIs as well, so I had a chat with the coach and the management about how to go about in the ODIs and do well and improve as an ODI and T20 player. Preparation is so far nice, so I am hopeful that I will get a good run.” Although he added that he wouldn’t like to disclose the inputs and advice that he received in the Indian dressing room, he said that it is up to the mark.

Pujara also spoke about adjusting to the shorter formats of the game. He said, “In T20s you don’t get time to get set, so you have to be ready to hit the four even if it is the first ball and you have to be a little innovative; you have to disturb the bowler's rhythm. There are a few adjustments that you need to make in the T20 format. And I always feel that in this format you have to be switched on from the first ball because its just 120 balls for the entire team.”

Asked about his preferred batting position, he mentioned, “I would like to bat at the top of the order. But I can’t just say that I would like to open the innings. It depends on the team’s requirement, so given an opportunity, obviously I would prefer to open the innings. But even batting at No.3 or 4, it is not deep down the order, so if I am batting between 1 to 4, it is good.”

He also said that he would definitely enjoy opening with Virender Sehwag in the KXIP line-up. “I think things will get easier for me if I am opening the innings with Virender Sehwag because he is the kind of batsman who can change the game easily. And if he gets going, he can score a 100 even in the T20 format. So if I open the innings with him, it will be a very good experience.”

He also mentioned that he has been working on a few areas where his batting is concerned. “At the moment there are a couple of shots that I want to be sure of I can play even if I am facing the first ball of a T20 game. So it is just about making sure of my strength and getting to know that these are the shots that I can play in the T20 format.”

Although he didn’t disclose any details, he said that he has had a meaningful discussion with former India and Rajasthan Royals captain Rahul Dravid as well.

Asked about his bowling, Pujara, who bowls leg-spin, said, “I have just started bowling in the nets. T20 is such a format where one over can change the game. I haven’t bowled for two to four years. It will atleast take six to eight months for me to start bowling in a match. Maybe if its one-day or Test, I can bowl a couple of overs; but not in T20.”

Asked about his KXIP teammate Mitchell Johnson, Pujara said, “It is the T20 format, so things will be different. But he can be a strike bowler for us given the kind of rhythm that he has and the way he has been bowling since the last six to eight months. The other teams might be worried or might want to face him out rather than trying to score too many runs.”

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