Pujara's last three-figure score in Tests was the 193 he scored against Australia in Sydney in January 2019. Getty
After an unforgiving schedule throughout 2021, India's deputy skipper for the first Test against New Zealand - Cheteshwar Pujara - reckoned the break and family time he got during the T20 World Cup has allowed him to rest, recharge and jump back into the grind.

Like most other Indian players, Pujara has gone from bubble to bubble, playing gruelling Tests - against England at home, the WTC final, against England away - before joining up with the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. Post that season, Pujara got his time away from the game while his multi-format colleagues stayed back in UAE for the World Cup.

"It's important to spend time with family also. The break that I got now I did that," Pujara said two days ahead of the first Test against New Zealand on Tuesday (November 23). "Then when you come back, you come back fresh and you look forward to the season because when you get your break, you get to work on your fitness, you get to work on your batting. When you come back, you're fresh and looking forward to it. There's no fatigue. Mentally you're fresh. And you feel you want to play as many games as possible so sometimes the break is really good."

Essentially, Pujara hasn't had any game time - across formats - since the Oval Test against England which finished on September 6 as he remained an unused squad member for CSK. But India's Test No. 3 admitted it wasn't like he was completely out of touch during these two-odd months, as training sessions during the IPL season kept him in shape. India's Test specialists also hit it out in a five-day training camp in Mumbai last week.

"Good thing is I was part of the IPL. Yes, I am playing after three months but I was still part of an IPL team where I could practice, I could train. So I am still in touch with the game. It's not that preparation hasn't been there. We also had a five-day camp in Mumbai, that preparation will also help," Pujara admitted.

Pujara began 2021 with twin half-centuries in Sydney and enjoyed a good tour Down Under, including a second-innings half-century in the series-clinching win at Brisbane. He began the home series against England in February with a 73 in Chennai but endured an underwhelming campaign after that, scoring just 133 runs in six innings. His form didn't pick up in the WTC final and the first couple of Tests in England either, but there seemed to be a change in approach in the next two fixtures. The otherwise risk-averse Pujara took a handful of them on the way to a 91, laced with 15 fours in it.

"When it comes to performing, I feel that the mindset was a little different but when it comes to technique, there wasn't a major change. It was just the approach and I was a little fearless, which helps. You don't need to put too much pressure on yourself, and just try and go there and enjoy the game rather than worrying too much about what's going around. That was my mindset during the England series," he said, admitting that the drying up of the 100s column doesn't have him worried yet. Pujara's last three-figure score in Tests was the 193 he scored against Australia in Sydney in January 2019.

"I've been scoring runs - 50, 80, 90 - I've not made a hundred but I am not worried about the score. I think as long as I keep batting well and keep contributing to the team's total, I am happy with that. It's a matter of one innings. When the century has to come, it will. My focus is to prepare well and bat well - as long as I keep doing that, a big one is always round the corner," he said.