Mumbai: Cheteshwar Pujara, who cracked his fifth Test century for India, said he was thankful to Sachin Tendulkar for guiding him through his innings on day two of the second Test with West Indies.
Pujara was so delighted with the opportunity to partner the legend in his final Test that he said he would cherish this memory forever.
Though two tons and one half century were scored during the Indian innings, Pujara considers Tendulkar’s knock of 74 to be the best. “I would say Sachin’s innings was the best because he was playing his last game and it is not easy to focus. There is a lot of nervousness and the way the crowd was supporting [him], it was good on the crowd’s part, but when you are in the middle it is difficult to concentrate, so I would rate Sachin’s innings as the best.”
He added: “Tendulkar was guiding me through whenever I was losing my concentration. He would come to me and tell me that now you have to focus a little bit more. It is always nice to play with him. I had made my debut with him and I had a partnership with him then. It is really a good feeling for me.”
Pujara believes that Tendulkar is still in supreme form. “I think he is always in form and the way he bats, it is always a pleasure to watch,” he said, before reflecting on how tough it must have been for Tendulkar to play his knock.
“It is not easy to stay calm when you are playing your last game. I think there was a lot of expectations from him since he was playing in Mumbai and it was his last Test match. But the way he batted it is incredible and only he can do it, I guess,” said Pujara who was as disappointed as everyone else when Tendulkar got out.
“It was disappointing but the way he batted, I think it was really amazing to see him score those runs. I feel that he is always determined to score and he might have been as determined as he was in his first game. There are many things to learn from Sachin,” he said.
When asked how it feels to have youngsters such as him, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli all doing well at a time when Tendulkar is retiring, Pujara said: “Team India is doing really well and there is a lot of input from Sachin on the way the youngsters are shaping up. He has been guiding all the youngsters. I have been noticing this since I made my debut and not only me but a lot of youngsters have got a lot of benefit from his input and the kind of conversations we have during the nets.”
Pujara then went on to describe an instance when Tendulkar helped him in the nets. “I was not playing well in the nets against the outswingers and he told me that my right shoulder is opening up a bit and I should be a bit side on. He also told me to have a little bigger stride and I tried doing it once I finished my nets and it helped.”
To a query whether there was any behavioural changes in Tendulkar as it was his last match, Pujara said: “I don’t think so because the way his preparation is before the game, it is still the same. I can say he might have worked harder in the nets to be successful in this Test match. His preparation was good enough and he has prepared more to be successful in these two Test matches.”