Dravid's reassurance gave me confidence - Pujara
In the series deciding third Test, Pujara has scored a crucial hundred, helping India get close to 300 on day two despite a batting collapse.
Apart from Pujara, the rest of the Indian top order crumbled on a track that supported the seamers, with players like Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma failing to make a telling contribution.
Before the tour to Sri Lanka, Pujara was leading India A in the unofficial Test matches against Australia A, under the watchful eyes of the team coach Dravid.
Stating that Dravid found no problem with his technique, Pujara said that he opted to continue playing his natural game.
“The best thing came out of Rahul Dravid when I was playing with India A team.
“He said that there is nothing wrong with my technique.
“So he told me to keep calm.
“He watched me bat in the nets and told me that there is a big one coming very soon, maybe in Sri Lanka or even in the India-A game.
“So that gave me lot of confidence and belief in myself.
“He (Dravid) felt that overall, I was batting really well during England and Australia tours.
“It's just that I didn't convert the 30s or 40s into a big one.
“So I decided to stick to what I do and continue playing the way I have been."
On the tours to England and Australia, Pujara did not make a considerable impact, often failing to convert his starts.
In the 2014 tour to England, Pujara managed to score only 222 runs from five games, whereas in the 2014-15 Border-Gavaskar trophy, he made just 201 runs from three games, with only one fifty in each tour.
Pujara further disclosed that he did not worry about external factors, but instead, he chose to concentrate on getting runs under his belt.
"I kept things simple. When I went in, I just had to go bat and play my natural game.
“I thought that if I think about all the stuff that had been happening, that I am not batting at my regular position and this is the last opportunity that might be there and so on, I wouldn't be able to go and perform to the best of my abilities.”
With an aim to see off the new ball by rotating the strike, Pujara said he looked to settle down before playing his strokes.
"I had been working hard. The best thing I needed to do was focus on what I have to do.
“The plan was very simple - try and rotate the strike and see through the new ball, and once I am set, obviously I could play my shots and build a partnership with other players.”
Pujara and Amit Mishra forged a 104 run stand for the eighth wicket, pulling the team out of a precarious position.
Mishra scored 59 runs from 87 balls, hitting seven boundaries in the process while ably rotating the strike to keep the run rate moving along.
Pujara felt that Mishra’s contribution with the bat was extremely crucial for India to post a competitive total on the board.
"The partnership with Amit Mishra was really important.
“He batted really well which allowed us to put on 292 on the board at the moment.
“He faced the second new ball, which was really important because had we lost a wicket then, things would have been very different.”
For Sri Lanka, it was Dhammika Prasad who led the way with his impeccable line and length, which fetched him a four wicket haul.
Prasad accounted for the wickets of Lokesh Rahul, Rohit, Stuart Binny and Ravichandran Ashwin, while he did not allow the rest to score freely.
Acknowledging Prasad’s bowling effort, Pujara was of the view that the 32-year-old made the optimal use of a seamer friendly pitch.
“I think Dhammika Prasad bowled brilliantly today. He kept his line. His plan was simple, to bowl on the fourth stump and let the pitch do the work.”
Most of the Indian batsmen got out chasing deliveries away from their bodies, but Pujara opined that the pitch was not an easy one to deal with.
“I was trying to play close to the body.
“The main thing I noticed that a few players got out because they played away from the body.
“That's the thing I tried doing.
“But the wicket was really challenging and you can't blame the players.”
The 27-year-old feels that it will be crucial to get at least 30 more runs on the board, after which the bowlers will have to get quick wickets.
“Tomorrow, if we can put on 30 or 40 more runs more on the board, it will be really important for the team.
“I don't want to think too far ahead about the second innings.
“Most important thing for us is to get them out as early as possible.
“We will think later about what's coming next.”
On day two, India managed to reach 292 for eight in 95.3 overs, with the last 45 minutes of play lost due to a short burst of rain.
© Cricket World 2015