India will take on New Zealand in the final of the World Test Championship in the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. The last time Cheteshwar Pujara played a Test at that venue, he ended up scoring 132 not out though India went on to lose the match.
This time, however, Pujara feels that India have the merit to go all the way. Citing the journey of the side since the last two years, Pujara said, “The Indian team has charted a remarkable journey in the last two years. We have played well to qualify for the final and everyone is looking forward to it. The India-New Zealand final will be a clash between two top-quality sides. It will definitely be a good game as both teams are evenly matched.”
In a chat with TOI, the 33-year-old also spoke about the side’s preparation whilst facing the challenges of the pandemic which has been hard on everyone. However, he feels fortunate to be able to play the WTC Final and against England.
“This is a tough time for everyone across the world, and it’s a situation that happens once in 100 years or more. The fortunate part is that we are able to play and the WTC final is going ahead as per schedule. Even if we are short preparation wise, I feel the team has enough experience to deliver a strong performance. This Indian team, in recent times, has shown the wherewithal to win on all surfaces and we will carry that confidence into the match against New Zealand and the subsequent Test series against England.”
With that being said, New Zealand might hold the psychological advantage going into the final since they defeated them in the Test series in 2020. That series loss to New Zealand was India’s only series defeat during their World Test Championship campaign. When asked about whether that will give the Black Caps the edge, Pujara replied, “I don’t think so. When we played the Kiwis in 2020, it was in their backyard. That won’t be the case in the WTC final since it’s a neutral venue for both the teams. None of the teams will have a home advantage. We have our bases covered and if we play to our potential – then we have the ability to beat any side in the world.”
Cheteshwar Pujara concluded by hailing India’s tremendous bench strength which came to the rescue against England and Australia in recent months. “The amount of talent in the Indian circuit is humongous. Be it our bowling or batting – we have the backup for the players. The Australia series earlier this year was an example. We had so many injuries, but the backup options did well for us to win the series. Everyone in this Indian team is hungry to do well and that’s the sign of a good side,” Pujara signed off.