Can’t predict how Motera pitch, pink ball will behave: Pujara

Test experience will not count on a new stadium’s new pitch, especially in a one-off Test with pink ball, said Indian batting mainstay Cheteshwar Pujara on Saturday about the newly re-constructed Sardar Patel (Gujarat) Stadium in Motera here.

No.3 batsman Pujara said that it was tough to predict the behaviour the new pitch at the venue, where the third India-England Test, a day-night affair, starts on February 24, as well as the Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) Test ball, which came into sharp focus for its quality in the first Test in Chennai.

The four-Test series is tied 1-1 and a place in the World Test Championship final at stake for India.

This will be India’s third pink ball Test and the first since the first Test in Australia at Adelaide in December, when they were shot out for 36 in second innings.

“Even I have played so many Test matches, But with pink even I don’t have that much experience. I don’t think experience matters a lot when you are playing one-off game in a Test sereis with the pink ball,” Pujara told the media on Saturday.

“It is a new stadium, a new pitch. Once we play more games, we will get to know the pitch. We still have three-four days before the Test begins and a lot could change during that. It is pretty difficult to predict with the pink ball game. We are playing with the pink ball. It is difficult to assess and judge before the match begins because you are expecting something and it turns out something else with the pink ball. [We] would try and keep things simple as players and not worry about the pitch,” said Pujara.

Pujara has scored 116 runs in the four innings of the two Test matches with one half-century.

“I won’t be able to say anything about the pink ball Test because we have played just one day-night game and the domestic games that I played was with the Kookaburra ball. To be honest, it is very difficult to [predict if] the grass cover will be kept or taken off. But we are still trying to figure out. We will see. I feel it is an important game for us to qualify for the World Test Championship, so we would try to focus on the things we would try to do as a team and try and make sure we win this Test,” he said.

The 33-year-old batsman that the dew factor may come into play but with many players having white ball experience, it won’t be tough.

“Looking at the weather, there might be a possibility that dew could play a factor. But guys have played with the white ball. Many of the white ball games, you get dew in second half of the game. Bowlers are used to it. As batters, we have played some games with pink ball. It could be there in the third session. But how much we don’t know. We are expecting some dew in the last session,” he said.

Pujara felt that the crushing defeat at the hands of Australia in the last day-night match they played, in Adelaide, won’t have an effect on the morale of the team.

“It was different ball game. We were playing in Australia. The ball was seaming around. We had one bad session. I would say one to one-and-a-half hour of poor batting led to disaster. But I felt that, overall, if you look at the first innings, we were still in dominating position. Here, we are playing in our familiar conditions. The ball is also different. We are playing with the SG ball. We are confident we will put up a good show. We would like to focus on the present,” he said.

Pujara, who has played 83 Test matches, confirmed that Hardik Pandya is fit, though he would not say if he would play.

“Can’t say about the team selection. But it is good he is back in rhythm. We still have a few more days before the game. It is good to see him back in his rhythm. I have been talking to him. He looks in good rhythm. Depending on team’s combination, the management will take the call [on the playing XI].”

Pujara also defended the Chennai pitch for the second Test, which aided turn from the first session itself, saying that the surface wasn’t dangerous.

“Sometimes if you are playing on a turning track, you will find it difficult but at the same time, it wasn’t a dangerous pitch at all. When the ball spins, people find it difficult to score. For overseas teams, which don’t have such pitches [in their countries] it is a bit difficult. There is very thin line (to decide on how much the ball should turn),” he said.

“I don’t think it was bad pitch. It always becomes difficult in second innings. When we play in Australia, Day 4 or Day 5 pitch becomes little dangerous where odd ball hits the crack and takes off. I don’t think we have issues and I am sure opposition teams, once they are used to it and start playing more matches, they will start figuring it out.”