By Graham Hardcastle
Che Pujara is hoping some good form for Yorkshire in the forthcoming Royal London One-Day Cup can help reignite his one-day international ambitions with India.
The Vikings overseas batsman, 30, does not want to be seen as a Test Match specialist, and is also targeting a return to the Indian Premier League, something he has not featured in since 2014.
He played the last of his five ODIs that same year, with a top score of 27.
Pujara’s overall career List A record is impressive. In 91 matches, he has scored 10 hundreds and 25 fifties with a best of 158 not out, averaging 54.17.
Surprisingly, prior to February, he had not played a List A game of any kind since 2015, but he scored 383 runs from nine matches for Saurashtra with top scores of 60 and 94 as well as four successive scores in the forties.
He helped his team to the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, in which he posted that 94. But it was not enough to seal victory over Karnataka.
Yorkshire see him as the ideal man to anchor their RL50 innings. Ahead of Friday’s televised opener against Durham, under lights (2pm), at Emirates Riverside, Pujara said: “I’ve worked a lot to be part of the IPL and the shorter formats, especially one-day cricket.
“I want to be part of the Indian team in ODI cricket and, as I say, the IPL.
“My priority remains Test cricket. But to be a part of the ODI team, you need to have different skills.
“I’ve worked on shots, which will definitely help.
“I played nine games for Saurashtra in February. My form was good. We were also playing on challenging wickets where the average score was about 220. I was still able to score runs.
“I’m very confident my game can adapt to the shorter formats.
“I don’t have to change massively. I think the basics remain the same, and in ODI cricket you have five fielders inside the circle for the whole 50 overs. Once you are in, it’s easier to play your shots with the white ball.
“When you are good at Test cricket, it’s just about switching the gears. I think white ball cricket is a lot easier than red ball. The Kookaburra doesn’t swing a lot.”
Yorkshire have been there and thereabouts in 50-over cricket for the last few years without securing their first piece of limited overs silverware since 2002.
Their downfall has been the knockout games. In 2014, they were beaten quarter-finalists before losing semi-finals in 2015 and 2016. Last season, they lost the eliminator match to reach the reach the semis against Surrey at Emerald Headingley.
“It’s definitely something we have to put right this year,” said off-spinner Azeem Rafiq.
“It’s first of all about getting to those big games, which there’s no divine right to do. But if we do, we have to try and enjoy the occasion a bit more.
“The way I see it, it’s a very individual thing. Then, collectively, it all comes together. There are lads who are going to be nervous on the day and others who will thrive.
“It’s not just another game because it’s knockout, but we have to make sure we follow the processes we’ve followed all tournament. If we do, it should put us in good stead.”
England leg-spinner Adil Rashid will play his first match of the season on Friday after putting red ball cricket on the back-burner to concentrate on the limited overs formats for both club and country.