Cheteshwar Pujara may not have bulging biceps, but he made the Australian team toil long and hard in the Ranchi test, where the Rajkot boy batted a record 525 minutes in his 202-run knock. We caught up with the prolific run-getter a couple of days later, on the sets of Taste Match—Khiladi Wahi Khel Naya, the new show on Living Foodz. As we settle into his vanity van, the host Sandeep Patil walks in and congratulates Pujara on his record-breaking innings under tremendous pressure and assures him of a celebratory lavish lunch during the shoot.
Upping the Stamina
The right-handed top-order batsman doesn’t seem to tire from scoring big runs. Long training sessions in the nets, intense fitness sessions in the gyms, and extensive running sessions in tracks is a given with any professional and competitive sport, but what is Pujara’s secret? “Many people underestimate the importance of a sportsman’s diet. I have become conscious about my diet and have incorporated major changes in my regimen and that has improved my endurance and concentration. My advice to all budding sportsmen would be to increase your protein intake during the day, and avoid carbs especially in the evenings,” recommends Pujara.
The hardworking batsman also confesses to having a sweet tooth, but has given up chocolates and sweets, to prioritise on his game. “You have to look at the bigger picture. When I am on the field, if I get tired, I can’t play well. If I eat well and work hard, then I stay fit and recover well; and no niggle or injury can come in the way of representing my country on the international stage. Only when I am running on low energy reserves, then I pop some chocolate during the game.”
Gujarati at Heart
The serious batsman gushes when talking about his love for Gujarati delicacies, especially the ones made by his mother-in-law. “Whenever I am home, I have to eat a meal cooked by her. She makes crunchy and spicy Gathiya, which any Gujarati would love, that pairs well with Jalebi. Now, of course, I avoid the Jalebis, but I can binge on Gathiya as a cheat meal,” says Pujara. And if you were paying a visit to Pujara’s state, the cricketer vouches that you would return home happy if you snacked on Bajra Rotla with an accompaniment of Sev-Tamatar curry or Dhokli Nu Shaak—they’re must-tries, he insists, and will not disappoint. His love for Indian food makes him crave for these delicacies even while on tour, and that’s how he discovered The Cinnamon Club in London. “It’s one of my favourite restaurants. But I have started exploring more cuisines of late, and enjoy Italian and Mexican food as well.” While the consistent run-getter was in Australia in 2007-08 as part of the Border-Gavaskar scholarship, he tried his hands at cooking and would get by rustling up some humble rice and vegetable curry. But he modestly confesses that his culinary skills pale in comparison to skills with the willow.
The Diet of a Cricketer
He’s got a good temperament and solid technique and a strict diet, and Virat Kohli for a role model. “Virat is the fittest cricketer in the Indian team, and you’ll see him practicing hard or hitting the gym, irrespective of his performance. And he’s extremely disciplined in terms of his diet, but I am a vegetarian so our dietary intakes are obviously different,” reasons Pujara. He elaborates, “I eat a good mix of protein-rich foods such as various pulses and soya bean. I prefer brown rice to white rice, and yellow dal to black dal, due to their higher protein quotient. Apart from that, I also take protein supplements, which is necessary, especially during a game. When it comes to carbs, I eat them only during the day and avoid them at night. On match days, I need more carbs for sustained energy levels. I drink plenty of juices, eat bananas during a game, and make a breakfast out of Bircher Muesli as it has natural sugar, and you can never go wrong with brown toast, upma and poha.”
Dressing Room Camaraderie
When the boys aren’t working hard on the field, they blow off steam by playing video games. “The entire team is into that. Most of the players—Virat Kohli, Karun Nair, Wriddhiman Saha, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan especially—get together and play FIFA on PS4 for hours! Pujara also makes time to play table tennis and badminton during off-days or weekends. And who’s the biggest foodie in the team, we ask: “Mohammed Shami has an enormous appetite. One dish is never enough for him. He would always serve two plates or order multiple dishes.”
Watch Cheteshwar Pujara with Dhawal Kulkarni, in conversation with Sandeep Patil on Taste Match, Sunday, April 30, at 8pm, only on Living Foodz.
Creative courtesy: Vartika Pahuja
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