New Delhi: Batting long comes naturally to Cheteshwar Pujara and now he wants his fellow Indians to do to same by staying at home as "the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic can only be won by being indoors".
Pujara was one of the elite Indian sportspersons who attended the video call held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss ways to fight the coronavirus. The country is in the middle of a 21-day lockdown.
"The Prime Minister wanted us to pass on the fighting spirit of a sportsperson to the general public. Sportspersons do inspire to fight," Pujara told PTI over the phone from Rajkot, his hometown.
"Most of us are following the government guidelines on lockdown but there are still some who are taking the virus casually. They don't realise that they could be affected."
"Every single person is a soldier at the moment. If you stay indoors, you are fighting the battle for your own country. There has to be a collective effort else we can't win this," said India's Test batting mainstay.
After helping Saurashtra win their maiden Ranji Trophy title last month, little did he know that he would be spending all his time at home. Pujara is enjoying the "forced" break and most of his time goes into entertaining his two-year-old daughter.
The closest he has got to a "hit in the nets" is by playing with a plastic bat.
"That is also for entertaining my daughter. No serious stuff. All of that can wait at the moment," he said.
But a gym at home means he is not compromising on his fitness.
"I usually take everything in a positive way. Sometimes you need to take a break as a sportsperson and there can't be a better time. We just won the Ranji and it is the right time to take three to four weeks off."
"Luckily I have a gym at home. Being a small-town guy, I can't go out to the gym and train there (because he will be mobbed). With the gym at home, I can still do my strength sessions, cycling and running. I also do yoga which helps a lot," said Pujara.
He was supposed to play county cricket in the UK but that too has been postponed at least till 28 May and faces a cancellation.
Considering the current circumstances, Pujara might have to wait till the Australia tour starting November to play his first competitive game since the Ranji Trophy final. But he is prepared for any eventuality.
"I would still have some first-class games before the Australia tour. I am prepared for anything. This is the time when we can't just be thinking about sporting events. First, we have to win this battle against coronavirus," he said.
"A person's life is much more important than a sporting event. All the sporting events (including Olympics) have been postponed. One has to be prepared as we are going through rare times.
"We just need to make sure the virus is contained and things get back to normal. After that, we can talk about the game."
Pujara has fond memories of the previous Australia tour in 2018-19 when India won their maiden Test series Down Under. He was named the player of the series for scoring 521 runs at 74.42, including three hundreds. His long hours in the middle and pacers' stellar performances made all the difference.
"I would still say it was a collective effort. Yes, I did perform exceptionally well. I am happy about that, no doubt, but when we go back again you have to start from scratch again. It (past performance) will help me for sure but one has to prepare again. You can't take your past glories to the current series," he signed off.
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