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Cheteshwar Is A Spiritual Man, It Helped Him Whenever He Got Hurt: Father Arvind Pujara On The Eve Of 100th Test

On the even of his 100th Test match, Cheteshwar Pujara's father Arvind Pujara speaks about his son's monumental feat and how he started coaching him at the age of eight.

Cheteshwar Pujara's spiritual streak helped him in difficult times says his father.
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It was in 2006 when Cheteshwar Pujara had called up his mother Reena after finishing a district-level game and asked her to tell his father Arvind to pick him up from the Rajkot bus stand. (More Cricket News)

On arrival at the bus stand, he didn't see his dad but a relative who informed him about his mother's death.

Cheteshwar Pujara's pain threshold has always been quite high.

The body blows inflicted by the Australia pacers or the tragedy of his beloved mother's untimely demise have shaken him to the core, but they haven't been able to break his resolve.

As he stands on the cusp of his 100th Test, the quiet warrior of Indian cricket has done his ilk proud. He is one of the few determined introverts who do end up winning the race.

"In any sport, 100 matches is no mean feat. You need a lot of dedication and discipline, fitness, proper diet. All these combined help in your longevity in international cricket. And, yes, a bit of luck," Arvind Pujara told PTI during an interaction from his Rajkot residence.

Being a father and also his illustrious son's only coach and sounding board, Arvind bhai is certainly a proud man but would never express his happiness.

Cheteshwar is 35 now. It has been a 27-year journey that started when a former Saurashtra first-class cricketer Arvind saw a bit of spark in his eight-year-old son and started coaching him.

He also took his son to Mumbai and sought former India cricketer and respected coach Karsan Ghavri's opinion on whether he should devote more time on his son's development as a player. The answer was in the affirmative and the nondescript Railway Colony ground was witness to history.

"When I started off (coaching Cheteshwar), there was no target as such in mind and also it is not fair to assume anything. But, yes, he was very hardworking from the start and the discipline paid him dividends," Arvind bhai, who played six first-class games in mid and late 70s said.

Talk about Cheteshwar the player, and the first thing that comes to mind is his mental resolve.

While working on a cricket book, which had a chapter on Cheteshwar, there was a conversation with Arvind bhai where he recollected how his teenager son had internalised his mother's demise and didn't shed a tear in private or public. He just went quiet.

"He never cried and just went quiet. In fact, he went to play an age-group game in Mumbai and I had to tell the team coach to keep an eye on him as I was worried," Pujara senior had said back then.

When Arvind bhai was asked to revisit those times, there was a tinge of emotion in his voice. "It was a difficult period. You can never replace a mother, however hard you may try," Pujara senior said.

However, at a young age, Cheteshwar did have a spiritual streak in him and that probably has helped him in his steely resolve.

"My late wife's Guruji, Haracharan Das ji Maharaj, took a lot of care of him. Also his aunt, who cooked food for Guruji and stayed in that ashram also took care of my son. I won't say that only I am instrumental in shaping him; his Guruji did play a massive role in his mental make-up and development," there was a lot of gratitude in his voice.

While physical pain can be endured to an extent with the available remedies, but what about the silent sufferings of the heart, for which there is no panacea?

"Body ka pain toh dikhta hain, lekin andruni chot, dil ka chot dikhta nahi (One can tell if somebody is in physical pain, but how does one see the emotional turmoil?" Arvind bhai said.

But, then, he revealed a secret of how his son's pain endurance increased over the years.

"A doctor friend of mine when he (Cheteshwar) was just starting out had advised him, 'Don't take pain-killers when you get hurt. Pain-killers don't heal injuries quickly and the body takes time to heal. You saw him take those 11 blows on the ribs, knuckles and forearm during that Test in Australia," said Arvind bhai, as one could gauge his heart swelling with pride.

But how did he handle emotional pain? Arvind bhai had another beautiful childhood story of his son.

"As a kid, he was hooked to video games and would always want to play. His mom would then keep a condition. 'If you pray for 10 minutes, then I will allow you to play video games', she would tell Cheteshwar."

"Now, I as a father, didn't like that method as I thought it was a sort of 'blackmailing'. I even had arguments with my wife that if you want to let him play video game, just say 'yes' and if you don't then plain and simple say, 'No'.

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"In the beginning, she didn't tell me anything. But some days later she explained why she did that.

"I want our son to have faith in God. If he prays everyday for even 10 minutes, when he grows up and is in a difficult situation, the prayer would help him. Cheteshwar became spiritual, that habit helped him and no university in the world can teach you (that) other than a mother."
          
I always knew 50s, 70s won't help, you needed big scores

Cheteshwar has three double hundreds in Test cricket and multiple triple hundreds at the first-class level.

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When he got his first lessons in cricket from his father in the late 90s, the concept of Indian Premier League was still alien. Hence, if you see him stepping out to Nathan Lyon and play the on-drive on the left or right of mid-on fielder, piercing the grass, you know it has come from hours of honing his basics in that small Rajkot ground.

"When I started teaching him the basics of cricket, there was no IPL. At the age of 13, he scored a triple hundred in a BCCI U-14 tournament back in the day. I told him that 50s and 60s had no value. If you want to get noticed, score hundreds and double hundreds," said Pujara senior.

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So, which one of Cheteshwar's 19 Test hundreds is his favourite? "Well, each hundred had a different context, a different backdrop and the need of the team was different. So it is not easy to say.

"Did he perform the role given to him by the team? If he did, then it counts. For me, when he opened his account after 53 dot balls in South Africa, that also had immense value. It was what the situation demanded."

On Friday, Arvind bhai, Cheteshwar's wife Puja and daughter Aditi will be present at the Ferozshah Kotla to savour the momentous occasion. No one is more deserving than this absolute devotee of Test cricket.

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