No festivals. No flying kites. No video games. Cheteshwar Pujara\u2019s childhood revolved around cricket. His adult life has been about adapting to challenges \u2014 thrown by Dale Steyn\u2019s high-quality bowling, Australian sledging, selection blues and public perception. At the Express Adda in Mumbai, Pujara shared his inspiring cricket journey with The Indian Express National Sports Editor Sandeep Dwivedi and Senior Assistant Editor Sriram Veera. On dealing with sledging in Australia Against Australia, I have realised that (sledging) is always higher at the start of the series. In the 2017 home series against Australia, one of the toughest series I have played, the first two Test matches were tough for us. In the third Test at Ranchi, the left-arm spinner Steve O\u2019Keefe was bowling when I was batting at 180. Initially, he was sledging but by the end he told me, \u2018If you are not getting out now, we will have to get wheelchairs\u2019. This time, too, there was some sledging at Adelaide in the first Test but eventually they realised that I do not respond. Stay focused and communicate with your partner and, when you are focused, they can\u2019t break you. On the celebration dance tribute to him Winning in Australia was a special feeling and the entire team wanted to celebrate. Rishabh (Pant) came up with a dance. It was not meant for me, to be honest, but all of us were trying that dance. I\u2019m not a good dancer, so I could not do it and, ultimately, everyone started making fun that Pujara can\u2019t dance. But I can assure you that I can dance at some stage. On when he realised he could become a cricketer When I was 12, for my first-ever state game for Saurashtra U-14, I had to go to Baroda to play a three-day game. I was crying when I was leaving my mother because I was missing my family. But my mom told me, \u2018If you want to be professional cricketer, you will have to travel and if you love this game you should do this\u2019. Luckily, I managed 306 runs and I realised that I can have a decent future. Later, I played for India U-19 in Sri Lanka; we lost in the finals against Pakistan but I was the Man of the Series. I knew I had the talent and was very confident that I could one day be part of the Indian team. Read Also| How two environmentally-conscious children have taken up arms against Delhi's waste problem On spirituality As a kid, I used to love playing video games but my mother never allowed me. She would tell me that if I prayed for 15-30 minutes, I would be allowed to play one game. That\u2019s how it started but, in time, I became spiritual and started doing prayers every single day. She would say that, good cricketer or not, I had to be a good human being. On his father My father never allowed me to participate in any festival \u2014 be it Diwali or flying kites. He would argue that if I cut my finger while flying a kite, I would not be able to practise or focus in a match. I was not convinced then but I now realise the kind of commitment required to play at the international level. He didn\u2019t allow me to play with tennis balls as the bounce of a tennis ball and a proper cricket ball is different. I used to sneak around and play but whenever he saw me he would say, \u2018If I see you playing with a tennis ball, I won\u2019t allow you to play with the cricket ball.\u2019 So, I left playing tennis-ball cricket. On missing out on academics I was good at studies but, once I started playing junior cricket for Saurashtra, it was very difficult to maintain studies and cricket. I have not graduated yet and just passed Class XII. I have a dream of doing MBA once I retire. I never had many friends who I could study with and I could not communicate with them after a point \u2014 so there were things I missed but, at the same time, it was for a better cause. On handling phases when runs don\u2019t come That Johannesburg Test (in 2018) was one of the toughest pitches I have played on. I had to make sure that we do not lose too many wickets early on because I was getting beaten by a lot of distance between the bat and the ball. I had no clue how to score. I told myself that I have to spend some time to let the pitch settle a little more and then I can play my shots after 30-40 balls. There was pressure and it was rising but the most important thing in Test cricket is that you have to be mentally tough. You handle that pressure by fighting through; you can always capitalise later. You realise what shots you can play on those pitches. I just wanted to stay calm. I got my first run after 40 balls or so but I think I just wanted to bat through that time and I knew that it will eventually help the team and that is what happened.