Cheteshwar Pujara, who was appointed captain of the India ĎAí team that will take on West Indies ĎAí later this month, says having Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan in his team will make his task easier. Excerpts from an interview:
You have led India ĎAí in the past. But is this the strongest A team you have ever led?
Yes, because it will be first time we will see so many senior players in the team. During our last trip to South Africa, we had a few experienced players but having Viru bhai, Gauti bhai and Zak bhai makes this a very strong India ĎAí side.
How do you plan to deal with senior players like them?
Their presence will make my work easier in fact. I will be able to rely on their inputs and experience in tough situations. Also, having them in the side will help me learn more. There are occasions when I face a tough situation during a dayís play. In such situations, I generally consult my teammates and take their advice. So having such senior players with vast experience will be of great help to me.
You must have learned some things from these players in the past as well...
Of course. I donít remember the instances but since I have played most of my games alongside them, theyíve played a crucial role in shaping my career. And itís not just me. When Zak bhai was in the Indian team, he used to guide each bowler. He knows how to bowl on different types of pitches. On flat tracks, he will tell the boys how to reverse swing the ball and which should be the areas to focus on. Iím looking forward to learning from these guys.
You do not lead Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy. So how do you manage to carry out the responsibility for India ĎAí?
I havenít led Saurashtra in Ranji but I have done that in under-14, under-16, under-19 and under-22 matches and have even captained (West Zone) in the Duleep Trophy. I was captain of India Under-19 too, for a brief period. So captaincy is nothing new to me. Had I not led any junior side, it could have been a problem. Captaincy is all about backing your decisions. Sometimes, it goes right and on a few occasions it may go wrong. However, it is important for me to back my instincts. In the end, itís a team game and I always put my team first.
What kind of captain are you? Has anyone from the past had an influence on you?
Captaincy canít be copied because each captain has to deal with different situations and circumstances. There have been instances where I have got a lot of opinions from my teammate but in the end, I have done what I felt was right. The decision might have not gone down well with a few players, it does upset them, but I canít do much. Iím always ready to take the blame. Iím an open-minded person so I enter the match with that attitude. I always look to learn something new and that is only possible in different kind of match situations.
How much has captaincy changed you as a batsman?
I have always differentiated my captaincy and my batting. As a captain, I always look to come up with strategies which will help the team. I ask for suggestions and at the same time I need to give freedom to my bowlers. As far as my batting goes, I have believed in playing long innings since childhood. My main aim is to occupy the crease for as long as possible; itís my duty to score runs. When you bat, youíre just a batsman and not the captain.
Did you ever think that a day will come when these stalwarts will play under you?
I never thought so. We all have seen them since childhood and they have been role models for all of us. They know their job well and I donít have to tell anything to them. Having them in the side itself is a morale booster and Iím sure I will learn something from them as will others in the side.
What is your target for this series?
We enter the series after a decent tour of South Africa. Apart from a win, Iím looking to gain some momentum. Batting is all about rhythm and one has to continue to maintain that by playing as many matches as a batsman can. West Indies is scheduled to come here later in the year. They have a good pace attack and Iím looking forward to facing them to gain some confidence.