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County Championship 2022 – Mohammad Rizwan picks up batting tips from Cheteshwar Pujara at Sussex

Among all the batters that Mohammad Rizwan has ever seen or played with, the Pakistan wicketkeeper believes India’s Cheteshwar Pujara is right up there among the top three batters he knows in terms of focus and concentration.
Rizwan has been able to see Pujara closely since both players are representing Sussex in the County Championship as overseas players. Late last month, Rizwan shared a 275-ball partnership with Pujara where both batters scored in their seventies to earn their county side a first-innings lead against Durham. They took the field together against Middlesex too last week.
It was a rare occasion for an India international and a Pakistan international representing the same team in a competitive game, but Rizwan said that it hasn’t felt ‘strange’ at all. Instead, Rizwan said that after playing alongside him in two games and talking to him outside the field, only Mohammad Younis and Fawad Alam are ahead of Pujara when it comes to focus. Pujara, who has averaged 143.40 this season with four centuries in seven innings, has even given Rizwan some tips on how to bat smarter in England.

“Believe me I haven’t felt strange at all about it [playing along with Pujara],” Rizwan told Cricwick in an interview. “Although I do joke around with him and also tease him a lot.

“But he’s a very nice person and his concentration and focus are unreal. If you can learn something from someone else, then you must take that opportunity. In my career, the player with the highest levels of concentration and focus I have known is Younis bhai. Then comes Fawad Alam. Pujara ranks alongside those two in terms of his focus and concentration.

“It is my attempt to seek for myself what makes these three guys so good in terms of their focus and concentration. In the early few days, I got out a couple of times playing away from my body. Now it is no secret that I tend to chase balls that are wide of my body. Here [in Pakistan] you get less swing and seam and you can get a lot of runs with such shots. So over in England, I got out chasing a couple of wide deliveries. Then I sought him out at the nets and he said, ‘in Pakistan or in Asia, we are accustomed to forcing our drives. You don’t need to force your drives over here.’ The other thing he pointed out is that in England you have to play closer to your body.”

Rizwan also said that outside the international arena the group of cricketers from other countries are all part of a ‘larger family’ who are looking to help each other get better at cricket.

“The cricket fraternity is a family of ours,” Rizwan said. “It doesn’t matter if someone comes from India, Pakistan, South Africa or West Indies…The fight stays restricted to what happens on the field.”

If we start saying, ‘our Virat Kohli’, ‘our Pujara’, ‘our Smith’ or ‘our Root’ then it would not be appropriate. Over here I have met with Shaheen Shah [Afridi]. I will also be meeting Babar Azam, Hasan Ali and Shadab [Khan].

“Like Hasan said that when he meets James Anderson he would want to learn something. It just means we are all part of one family and the more you meet, the more knowledge you can pass on and that is good for all of us. If someone can improve their career with the learnings of someone else, then there’s nothing like it.”

Pujara and Rizwan became the 150th and 151st players to represent Sussex last month, and will both be available through the end of the County Championship season for the Division Two side. While Pujara will not play the white-ball competitions that follow, Rizwan will be with Sussex till mid-July for the T20 Blast tournament.

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