Has he done anything romantic? Yes he has. Initial years. Obviously now and all, why would he do, -…but, yeah, initial years, yes.
-She’s saying why. -Why.
-We’re still..why not. -Yeah, why not!
-I’ll have to do the… See this is the signal where I have to understand, …I have to start doing something romantic now. For me, if I had to choose between cricket and something else? I’ve always chosen cricket. At one point I was ready to sacrifice everything, …because I know my ultimate aim was to play this game. You spent 13-14 years here? -Yes.
-This is where you started? First time you held a bat? It’s been many years, …so first of all, it’s good to be back here. So many memories! So this is the tree where… …we used to play cricket. Where I started learning this game. Ah! That is when I first started… ..actually practicing with my father. Alright. I think I was somewhere around 4 or 5 years old. So, along with a tennis ball… …my father bought me a small bat. At 8 years old, I started training, …and my father said then that, There will be no more tennis ball cricket. Children used to play here… But I wasn’t allowed to join them. So whenever Papa would go to office, …I’d sneak out to play, …and would be the wicketkeeper. I don’t see a single broken window here, …did you play your signature ground shots then as well? No no, we weren’t allowed then! If we broke a window, …I would be banned from playing. I didn’t want that. That’s why, only ground shots. Must be a nostalgic feeling, just walking into that house?
Yeah! It’s been so many years… When was the last time you were here? At least 15 years back, at least.
Wow. That used to be my bedroom, …and this was the dining and living area. See, I can still recollect the entire interior of this house, …because I still remember we had a cupboard this side. I used to love that window. There was cross ventilation from that side, …so the breeze was amazing. I can still recollect lot of memories of this place. Most of the time, I used to be in the balcony, …watching all the kids play. But whenever I would play, I’d be the wicketkeeper. Because if Papa would come, I’d tell him “I’m not playing… …I’m just being part of the match!” Where would you hide when you were scolded? In the bathroom. There’s a bathroom this side.
The bathroom! I used to lock myself in. Would your mother come to save you? Absolutely! 5-10 minutes after I’d go and hide, …mom would come and tell me, “Come out, it’s okay. Dad won’t scold you.” Railway Quarters, Kothi Compound, 127 C/1, ….this address must be printed in your heart? This is the terrace Cheteshwar wasn’t allowed on? Would you sneak out to fly kites? Flying kites wasn’t allowed for me, …but my mother would support me. She’d say, “If you want, you can go for an hour or so.” So I’d come up here sometimes. But, I had to make sure there are no injuries. There is no finger injury, there is no cut, even if I am flying kites. When you’re flying kites, you never know.
Sometimes something can happen. But there should not be any marks on my fingers. [in Gujarati] Uncle, as they say, “A real Gujarati plays Garba.” But he wasn’t allowed even that! There wasn’t any rule that he shouldn’t play dandiya, ..but it is a matter of self discipline. One must maintain discipline. If you want to play the garba or dandiya, …then you will come back late at night. Now, he has to go to the grounds early in the morning, …if one reaches the ground already tired, …then what will he give to cricket? But uncle, what was the problem with gully cricket? That’s where everyone starts! You didn’t let him play that either? See, when you play with a rubber ball, …the technique required in that… …involves playing bouncy deliveries… You have to play cross-batted shots. The proper way is to play with a straight bat. There is a big contrast between the two. He’d have gotten used to that technique if he played too much of it. He’ll only play cross, …unlike the cover drives and on drives that he plays now. It would’ve been difficult to develop those. You were the breadwinner and you were supporting him with his sport, …how did you balance the two? The credit for that goes to my wife. She was very careful about… …what to give importance to and when. She managed that phase very well. We had to buy a bat for him at the time, …and we couldn’t afford it. There’s a sports shop in Rajkot, …where my wife bought a bat for him. It was 1500 rupees at the time. Every month, she would go to pay the instalments. Whatever she had left, 100 or 200 rupees. I remember when I got selected in the state team for the first time, …in the Under-14 side for Saurashtra, …I had to go to Pune to play. And as a kid, I was really sad. After everything was done, …a day before I had to leave, I started crying. I told my mom that I don’t want to play cricket. I don’t want to play and I don’t want to go away. If I can play in Rajkot, I will. I won’t go to Pune. Initially, she said ok, …but somehow, slowly, …after an hour or so, she started convincing me. Somehow I got convinced! I was really surprised, …because I can’t leave my parents. At that age, I was so sure… What did she say in Gujarati to you? In Gujarati, she told me that, …”look, you are very fond of cricket, …we will be in touch. We’ll call you. …if need be, we’ll buy you a mobile phone.” At that time, it was so difficult to get a phone. Like, mobile phones were just introduced. To get a call, …you had to pay somewhere around 15 rupees for an incoming call. I heard she herself made pads for you? Yes! When I was 8 or 9 years old, …actually the pads in the market were too big for me. I couldn’t do the footwork properly in them. I wasn’t very comfortable in them. So my mom stitched a pair of pads for me. Did that put pressure on you at all? That they are doing so much for me, I have to do well! Were you obsessed with the idea of doing well at that stage? At some stage, yes I was, …because there was a lot of pressure to be successful. If you haven’t achieved at a decent level, …because, I did play for the state team, …but till the time I didn’t play for the Under-19 Indian Team, …there was always a doubt if I will be successful or not. But my Mom and I, both of us were very confident that I will be successful. Did you ever scold him after seeing his Report Card? Or only his scorecard? No no, actually, even I have failed in class a few times. Twice in SSA, twice in Pre-A, A Final as well. So, that thing was never on my mind. Mom was the one who would look at my reports, …she was the one who’d take care of it. When I would get scolded by her, …it was only for my report cards, nothing else. I think she also said “I’ll put it in writing, my son will play for India”? Actually, my wife was very religious, …I don’t know how she knew, …but I argued with her about it. I said, “You are a mother, …you will want the best for your son, …and that he will face no obstacles. But I can’t digest the logic behind this.” To end this, she said, “Bring me a sheet of paper, …I will put two things in writing, …One, that he will play for India and he will be unstoppable, …and two, …you will never have to give him a single penny.” At the time, it was hard to imagine because there was no IPL or anything. Today, her words are 100% true. Absolutely correct. But unfortunately, she is not here to see that. Because I want to tell her, I was wrong. How often do you come here? -Off Season?
-I’m here. Almost every single day. I don’t know of any other cricketer who does this, …who has his own academy and just gets kids for free. When I started playing cricket, …I had limited facilities. So, my father thought that, …the younger lot, they should never struggle to get enough practice. At least, they should have enough infrastructure, then it’s up to them, obviously. The facilities are there, then it’s up to them, …how hard they work. They have a lot of time to work on their fitness, …their training, their practice, …so it is up to them, how motivated they are to make it to the next level. To be honest, it’s a tough job. Because, I remember when my father started building this ground, …it was barren land, …and we had to put hundreds of trucks of black soil on this, …to make it even. Then, to prepare this pitch, …my father had knowledge on how to prepare a turf pitch, …so he has put in a lot of work, he was almost here throughout the day, …to build this infrastructure. You’ve made such an investment, put in so much work, …but not kept a name for the academy, why? See the reason is, …this is for a noble cause, …and we don’t want to market this place. We don’t want this academy to be really popular. Because, the aim is to build good cricketers, …and for that we don’t need any marketing. The basic idea is, …the players should come here and focus on the game. So if we have a bigger name, …or if we market it well, …then there will be a lot of players who want to be a part of this, …but we want to keep the numbers limited, …we want to keep a limited number. The reason is, we can focus on quality, …because if we focus on 35, 40 or 50 players, …then we know that we can focus on them. But if we have hundred kids here practicing, …we’re not doing justice to all of them. Are they allowed to bowl bouncers? Yes yes, of course. Of course they are. My father will make sure that they bowl bouncers, …no half volleys. Because if they bowl such balls, …then only will I be ready for the big games. If he gets out on a bad shot, do you guys give him feedback? Like, “Cheteshwar brother, what have you done?” These two do!
These naughty ones? They get nervous when Cheteshwar walks in to the academy, …suddenly everyone starts behaving? -As I can see they’re…
-Not Cheteshwar, actually… -Cheteshwar’s father…they’re scared of.
-Aaaah! If anyone in the world doubts… …what Gujarati hospitality is all about, here’s the proof. You are caught on camera, Cheteshwar! Eating what may look unhealthy, but… …this is healthy for the soul, isn’t it? It is! It is my cheat meal. So, I can get away with this, once a month. I want to talk about, I want to know about, what was it like when you guys met for the first time? Was it one of those…typical… -…arranged marriage meetings? What was it like?
-Yes yes. So, I’d met my father-in-law first, …because he was travelling. …and then, I was meeting him, after that. So it was, …you cannot say it was a very arranged marriage, …but yes, it was. -She didn’t know much about who I was.
-Yeah, I didn’t know much about who he was. …and what he played, and what he’s achieved… -and I was like…
-But you knew, India Cricketer, I’m sure. So that and all, people gave me information, …and my mom was like, she was a cricket fan. So, she knew him… Ah! Yeah, so she knew there’s somebody from Rajkot… …you know… who has done well for the country and all of that. So where did you meet? The two of us? At Cheteshwar’s uncle’s house.
Uncle’s house… We went on to chat for two hours, and… …the uncle, at whose house the meeting was… …they were like ‘now we’re running out of topics’, …because they had to talk about something as well, right? The people who were sitting outside. We are chit-chatting happily! Outside, everybody is getting awkward, what to talk! That day, we spoke a lot. After that, he’s gone silent! That was the only time… …on and on and on and on, like his batting! So, Sachin once referred to him as a silent warrior, …in this relationship, he’s silent and you’re the warrior? No, he’s silent also and warrior also. How much has life changed? To be honest, I’m relieved. I don’t have lot of responsibilities now, …because Pooja has taken over… and she’s handling everything really well. -Yeah.
–So, I can just focus on my game. Pooja, you’ve got to tell me, …some naughty bits about his life. He must’ve done something! -No so…
-In these 31 years, he would’ve done something! -In front of you…
-Many things! He’s like the silently naughty, right… You won’t see it on his face, …he’ll put up as a very sweet guy and… …you know, he’ll keep smiling and all that, …but where he’ll poke you, you’ll not even get to know! Like, his cousins okay… …they’ll be seeing some old albums or something like that, …he’ll see their pictures of them dressed as girls or something like that, …you know, he’ll keep bullying them. Kind of, you know, if you don’t do this… …I’ll show this to this one and that one and… I’ve also warned them that if they don’t… …obey what I say, then I’ll upload it on social media. -Social media! Yeah!
-Ah! -So he does those…
-And from my account! -With a million plus following!
-Yes! Exactly. So he’ll do all these things, he’ll keep bullying people like that, for fun. I’m sure, even when it comes to sledging, …some of the smart sledges no, I’m telling you, …I mean, I have that thing. He doesn’t talk about it, …and he will never tell me, obviously, because I’ll make a big deal, …but he’ll do that! I’m sure he would have come up with something or the other! I can’t believe Pujara can sledge, there’s no chance! That’s part of the game, …see, I’m trying to help the bowlers. -It’s all for the team.
-…and I’m not… …yeah, it’s all for the team and I’m not trying to, …be personal with the opposition, …it’s just one odd word you need to put into their ear. So what’s the Cheteshwar Pujara sledge like? Let’s see how, not so mild… -I can’t be specific, no no, there’s no way I’ll tell you…
-Yeah! That’s what! Oh! So there’s definitely something! Yes, of course there is. Why not! So the problem is, …when I first met her, …it was really ok with me that she didn’t know anything about cricket, …so whenever we used to speak, …it was apart from cricket. Alright. So any conversation was about… …our house or… …where we wanted to plan our next holiday, …or wherever we want to travel, for… -Some other, anything apart from his work.
-Yeah, something other. But over a period of time, …my father has already spoken to her, …so many things about my technique, …how should I have played, how I shouldn’t have, …so all such things have come up, …and the end of the day’s play, …I usually expect a call from my father, regarding my game, …but Pooja calls me, …she will tell me that, “You should’ve played like that, don’t you think so?” How much has life changed, since, she’s arrived? It has changed a lot. In terms of all of us, we are more lively. We are talking a lot more, …and whenever she’s around, …I think it’s a different atmosphere in the family. Now, my father-in-law is, …even when he’s watching matches and all, …he cannot watch with that much focus. Because this one is there, …and like, grandad’s pet. Also, my father is not very strict with her… -Not at all! Zero!
-The only person he’s not strict with, in life! -Yeah.
-Yeah. I’m seeing a completely different side of him now, …with Aditi… and, I’ve been trying to tell him, …that you have to be a little strict with her, …because, she will… So now, he is becoming him, -…yeah.
– Yeah, so it’s like that. He wants to be a little strict and little disciplined. So what I will tell you is, …when there’s an intense series… …when there’s an important series, …they will not sit together, …if there’s a series where India has already won, …and the atmosphere is relaxed, …then they’ll be sitting there, watching me play, …chit-chatting, then they’re okay talking about it. -But if there’s an intense…
-No, but, generally when you’re batting, …you’re not there, we never sit together. I come, in between, …like if you’ve reached a milestone or so, then I come and… …we just celebrate it for 5-10 minutes, …then I go back to my room. I’ll sit and watch there, at ease. He’ll also again start focussing…
So you are batting, -…they’re also batting in a sense, they’re also focussed!
-Yeah yeah! How lucky, look at you! This is what is called being successful. Success is important in life, …but at the same time, …if you don’t have your family around you, …you don’t have people whom you love, …if they are not with you… …then… …I don’t think there’s any relevance, …even if you are on top of the world, …if you are scoring so many runs, …I mean, when the family is around, …then that is the biggest satisfaction one can have. Okay then! Time to test your spicy quotient! Let this be fiery, let this be spicy, …since, we are on the Spicy Pitch! Test, ODIs or T20s? Test. What do you like more, batting or fielding at Forward Short Leg? Has to be batting. But I still love fielding. There’s nothing wrong in fielding. Laziest guy in the team? Mohammad Shami. Funniest guy in the team? Shikhar Dhawan. Favourite Tendulkar memory? His last game, 200th Test Match, …where I was fortunate enough to be part of it, …and the last partnership, …last time he batted in the Test match, I was part of it. I feel lucky. Your greatest quality? I would say, my technique and my temperament. Your worst habit, worst trait? I would say my bowling… …I always wanted to be a good bowler, …I’m still an average part time bowler. The toughest bowler you’ve faced? Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, …when they were at their peak, …and when I was facing them in South Africa. IPL or County Cricket? Both? I would say both, yeah. Fafda Jalebi or Strawberries and Cream? Fafda Jalebi. Your cheat meal? It’s Vanela Gathiya. Meal cooked by the wife, or the mother-in-law? By mother-in-law. And finally, …the biggest goof-up of your life, so far. Well, I can’t remember one, …but Pooja has told me that, …when I proposed to her, I didn’t bend my knee. So far, yeah. So… This could be, …I mean, if we have another ceremony somewhere, …I’ll try and bend my knee. You have such a beautiful home, … these walls are bare. There are no trophies, no Man of the Series pictures, …what’s the scene boss? See, I don’t like to showcase what I have achieved, …people know it anyway. When people come and meet me, …I just want to be with them. Spend a lot of time with them, …not to go back to the game, …and show them that this is what I’ve done. Balance should be in the centre… …and then try and… take the front foot towards the stumps, …rather than towards the bowler. Because, often …it goes to the bowler’s side, so you have to adjust, …and you are then blocked for the inswinger. So, if you can take this left leg, …towards the stumps in the initial movement, …because you don’t do back and across. The one who has movement in the front foot, …it is easier to take it towards the stumps for him. Then you are balanced. Then the body weight is in the centre. Even the head is towards the bowler.