Mumbai:Mumbai's Indian speedster Zaheer Khan and Saurashtra's run-machine Cheteswar Pujara were cautious in their comments ahead of the vital Ranji Trophy semi-final clash between the teams, starting on Sunday.
Speaking to reporters soon after their teams' three-hour workouts and net practice sessions, Pujara said facing Zaheer Khan would be a challenge, while the latter said that every game was vital and that Saurashtra could not be taken lightly.
"I am focussed to help my team make the final grade. My job is to score runs as I have been doing this season. As for my selection to the Indian side, I leave it to the selectors. Though Mumbai are the favourites, we will try our best to make the final," Pujara said.
Pujara, who has been compared with Rahul Dravid for his sound technique, also said that it was wrong to compare him with Dravid, "who has scored 10,000 and odd runs."
Zaheer Khan said he has been following the performance of teams in Ranji Trophy and Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja have peformed solidly. "We cannot take them and the team lightly. I cannot call them a weak side".
"I look forward to playing in the semi final. Obviously the boys have worked hard. Look at them from here, they are upbeat and had a nice session. I am playing after a long time for Mumbai... the last game was the final last season. Good to join them and finish it off," Zaheer said.
On his bowling, Zaheer said he is really happy over the way he was bowling now and just wanted to continue the good work and keep going and maintain his rhythm.
"There have been big changes as far as my bowling is concerned. As far as the action is concerned, I have not made real changes. It has been four years since I cut down my run up. And it has helped me quite a lot in terms of getting to a fitness level and maintaining my line and length. It has made a big impact as far as my bowling is concerned," he said.
On his bowling at Chennai, Khan said "it is pretty much the same. I enjoy bowling in any type of conditions. Depending on what condition I get here, I will play accordingly. That is how I approach international matches and that is the way I approach in domestic games too."
With star batsman, Sachin Tendulkar set to join the team tonight, Mumbai coach Pravin Amre concurred with Zaheer Khan, saying Saurashtra have come out well in their matches so far.
"The team cannot afford to be complacent, though it has been strengthened with the presence of Sachin and Zaheer. "These two always provide solidity to the team cause," he added.
"Having missed out making the knockout stage last season, we need to maintain our status. We are committed and the players are focussed towards our goal to make the final grade," Amre said.
"Though it is our ninth game this season in the tournament, we consider it as our first match. We would like to win the coveted title for the 38th time," he said.
Debu Mitra, Saurashtra coach, said his team had set their sights on making the final grade for the first time. "We have the talent to take the team to the summit. Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja, besides others, have to repeat their performances of the season. As a whole my players have displayed great abilities in coming this far".
Having lost their first league match against Gujarat, Saurashtra were in a must win situation against Hyderabad in their last league tie. Pujara and Jadeja were involved in a record fifth wicket stand of 520-odd runs and then left arm spinner, Jadeja scalped seven Hyderabad wickets in the fourth innings to help his team make the knock-out stage.
Referring to this win, Mitra expressed confidence that his team would have a dream entry to the final match of the tournament.