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Ranji Trophy, County Championship help Cheteshwar Pujara stage India comeback

India star batsman Cheteshwar Pujara attributes his Ranji Trophy and County Championship performances to helping him regain his rhythm and rejoin the national squad.

Earlier this year, the 34-year-old was omitted from India's home Test series against Sri Lanka. Yet, after scoring 720 runs in just five matches for Sussex with an outstanding average of 120, he fought his way back into the national team for the fifth Test against England.

Pujara struggled in the Ranji Trophy. During his time playing for defending champions Saurashtra, he scored only 191 runs in five innings. He was not selected by any IPL teams during the mega auction after Saurashtra were knocked out in the league stage.

In the end, Pujara's exclusion from the IPL proved to be a blessing. In the Division Two County Championships, he scored two hundred and two double centuries in seven-inning games at an average of 143 for Sussex. After smacking three centuries for the team, he made a return to the Test side.

"I played three games for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy. Even there, I found my rhythm and I knew that I was batting well," Pujara claimed. "It was about getting a big score and so when I had that in my first game, I knew that everything is back to normal now. [I was] finding my footwork, the back lift was coming along well."

Pujara's exclusion from the Test team due to South Africa's loss earlier this year was a huge setback. In the aftermath of the series loss, Rahane and he were made scapegoats. Pujara told BCCI TV that he got his rhythm back through playing in the Ranji Trophy and County Championships after getting dismissed.

"It's about playing as many first-class games as possible and for me, that experience was very important. When you want to get back into form when you want to find your rhythm when you have that concentration, it is important to play some long innings," said Pujara.

"So, when I was playing for Sussex, I could do that. When I had my first big knock against Derby, then I felt that my rhythm was back, my concentration and everything was falling in place. Yeah, I had a very good time with Sussex."

India vs England Test game

From July 1 - 5, Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham will host the fifth Test between India and England. Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah will be among the key players in the Indian team under team captain Rohit Sharma. There has been no announcement of England's Test squad.

In preparation for the games, India is scheduled to play a four-day warm-up match against Leicestershire. The warm-up game between India and Leicestershire kicks off on Friday, June 24 at Grace Road Stadium. Among Pojara's teammates who will play for Leicestershire are wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna.

India has announced the squad for the warm-up match against Leicestershire, while Leicestershire has yet to announce the squad. Almost all Indian players from the Test squad are expected to participate in the warm-up game.

A full contingent of the Indian team has arrived in England, including head coach Rahul Dravid, who was occupied with the T20 match between India and South Africa until June 19.

Gian Chacko

Sports enthusiast with love for cricket, football and sports in general. Holds 10+ years of following and writing about sports and lately also betting.