NZ have advantage but India not worried: Pujara

Published June 15, 2021
In this file photo, India's Cheteshwar Pujara raises his bat after making half century against New Zealand during their first test match in Kanpur, September 22, 2016. — AFP/File
In this file photo, India's Cheteshwar Pujara raises his bat after making half century against New Zealand during their first test match in Kanpur, September 22, 2016. — AFP/File

SOUTHAMPTON: India’s players are positive ahead of the World Test Championship final against a New Zealand side primed for the encounter after a successful series in England, said batsman Cheteshwar Pujara.

Friday’s final in Southampton comes after two years of Test series to determine the world’s top two teams.

The Black Caps are coming off a confidence-boosting 1-0 Test series win over hosts England while Virat Kohli’s men played their last competitive match at the end of March.

“We are not worried about that,” Pujara said about New Zealand’s just-concluded Test series in England.

“We will try and focus on these 10 to 12 days which we have for our preparation,” the batsman said in a video shared on the BCCI website. “If we utilise these days well I feel that our team will be up for the final.”

New Zealand drew the first Test at Lord’s before winning the second match in Birmingham on Sunday.

India’s players staged an intra-squad practice game on Friday and Saturday at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton after undergoing quarantine both at home and in England.

“When it comes to finals we will give our best and we know that our team has the potential to do well and win the Championship,” Pujara said.

Pujara, who has played county cricket in England, said acclimatising to the fickle weather conditions will be key to India’s success in the final.

“Playing in different conditions in a single day here is the most challenging part for a batsman because if it rains you go off the field and then suddenly it stops raining and you start again,” said Pujara. “So there are breaks in between and this is where you need to understand and accept the challenge. Mentally you have to be strong; your concentration needs to be up to the mark.”

India’s star spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is expecting the best from an upbeat New Zealand side that has performed well under the testing English conditions.

“I expect a very well-planned and well-knit New Zealand team to come at us,” Ashwin said. “Having played two Tests, they will definitely come in with an advantage. So we have to adapt to that.”

India’s vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane said they will give it their best shot and treat the final as ‘just another game’.

India booked their place in the final after a 3-1 series win over England in March.

Kane Williamson’s side secured their spot when Australia’s tour of South Africa was postponed this year due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2021

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