I will think twice before playing my strokes in South Africa, says Cheteshwar Pujara

Cheteshwar PujaraApart from Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara is the only specialist batsman in this side to have played Tests in South Africa (IE Photo Kevin D'Souza)

With an average of 65.50 in Tests and five hundreds in 15 Tests, Cheteshwar Pujara has raised the bar in terms of expectations from India's next generation of players. But the batsman will face a litmus test during the Test series against South Africa. In a chat with The Indian Express, Pujara talks about his form, what makes SA challenging, how to deal with Steyn and Morkel, and life without Sachin Tendulkar. Excerpts.

Three back-to-back hundreds must have been ideal preparation for the South Africa tour.

These back-to-back hundreds have given me a lot of confidence. Whenever any batsman tours abroad, the one thing he wants is big scores behind him. I have got those now and it will be a matter of adapting to the conditions in South Africa. Technique-wise, I will have to make adjustments and have prepared my mind accordingly.

Apart from confidence, what else will you will take from this form to SA?

The double hundred makes a lot of difference. You bat for one day, and the next day, you come again and bat out a whole day. The fitness level is not the same and one keeps tiring. When you are set, one needs to concentrate even harder. I will take that self-belief to South Africa.

You have played two Tests there. What are the challenges for a batsman?

Apart from the bounce, the one big worry is lateral movement. The bowler might bowl an out-swinger to you but after pitching, it will come in. This only happens in SA. In my last trip, I had heard many seniors talking about it and making adjustments.

Have you thought of how to deal with this lateral movement then?

One has to cut down their strokes. I remember during my last trip, I was batting well and suddenly I played the hook shot. Later, Rahul (Dravid) bhai asked me if I play that stroke frequently. No, I said. He asked me to have patience in South Africa. I didn't play the hook shot again. Unless you are sure of playing that kind of shot, you should just leave it.

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