Don't think there's anything too wrong with Pujara's game - Dravid
In his last 10 Test matches - played on tours of New Zealand, England and Australia - Pujara has a batting average of 24.15. The run of form led to India dropping him for the final Test of their Australia tour, and he remained on the bench when they decided to play only five specialist batsmen in the only Test of their Bangladesh tour.
Pujara remains a part of India's Test squad, but has slipped down the pecking order considerably since the time he was an automatic selection at number three. His preparations for the tour of Sri Lanka have begun fairly well, though: captaining India A, he made 55 and 42 in the first four-day game against Australia A in Chennai.
"I don't think there's anything too wrong with Pujara's game," Dravid, the India A coach, said, at the end of the final day's play. "Happens when you're playing international cricket, that there are times when there is going to be a bit of ebb and flow, some times when runs don't necessarily come.
"I've had a look, I've watched him, I didn't particularly think there's anything wrong with his technique. I thought a couple of times he got starts and got out in England. If he had just gone on and converted one of those, [things might have been different].
"Also I think it's not easy for him because he finds himself out of the team, and then there's not a lot of other international cricket for him because he's not in the one-day scheme of things. He's had to have long periods when he's not been in the team, he's been outside having to come back in. It's not an easy thing to do. I only experienced it later on in my career, it's not an easy thing. He's going to have to learn to get used to that. That's the reality of the situation, the situation is not going to change.
"I personally feel he'll be fine. He's still got the technique, he's got the game, the temperament. I saw him score a brilliant hundred in Johannesburg, a brilliant hundred in Bombay, on a square turner. To me, once he gets set, his strike rate is as good as anybody I know. He's terrific at rotating the strike against the spinners and dominating them, in his own way. So I think it's just one of those periods when things just haven't gone [his way]. Maybe his form is a bit off, maybe his timing is a bit off, but he's getting there."
Dravid was also enthused by Pragyan Ojha's comeback with a remodeled bowling action, and praised him for bowling in half-sleeved shirts. Suspended from bowling in December, when the BCCI found him to be bowling with an illegal action, Ojha returned to cricket in February. He picked up six wickets in the match against Australia A, including a first-innings five-wicket haul.
"I thought his control was very good," Dravid said, of Ojha's performance in the four-day game. "He varied his speeds well. He was able to realise that on a wicket like this, bowling really slow wasn't going to help. He bowled quicker when it was required. He bowled well to the left-handers.
"It's terrific to see him make a comeback and it's not easy to do. Great to see him bowl with half-sleeves. He has taken the bull by the horns: 'I have nothing to hide and I want to bowl with half-sleeves'. He must be applauded for that. Because he has gone out there [with the thought] that I'm confident in my action and bowling and confident enough to wear a half-sleeve t-shirt. To me that's a really good sign. He has had a lot of success playing for India in India. Lots of series coming up. The more he bowls, the better it is."
Virat Kohli, India's Test captain, will join the India A side for the second four-day game in Chennai. Dravid said Kohli had got in touch with him well ahead of the series, asking if it would be possible for him to get some match practice ahead of the Sri Lanka tour.
"It's fantastic that Virat wants to play here," Dravid said. "He spoke to me almost three-four weeks ago that he was keen on playing this series or at least play one match. We were just debating as to which match would be best suited for him to play. And it's nice that he's keen to play and prepare for the tour to Sri Lanka. And he wants to have match practice.
"Nice to have the Indian captain in the team and it would be a great boost for a lot of youngsters in the India A team, who would be eager to impress the India captain. What better way to do it than performing in front of him when he is playing in the eleven?"
Before the series against Australia A, Dravid had asked for quick, bouncy pitches to challenge his batsmen against the Australian pace bowlers. The pitch for the first four-day game, however, was decidedly on the slow side. Dravid said he understood it was hard for curators to prepare such a pitch given the recent weather in Chennai and the nature of the soil itself.
"It's a tough one," Dravid said. "It's hard, there has been a lot of rain in the air. It all comes down to the soil. People try but at times it doesn't work out. At this time of the year it is tough. But look, I guess you've got to learn with what you have got, in any conditions.
"Ideally we would have liked to have more pace and bounce. Bit of carry, it would have made it a bit tougher for our batsmen against their pacers and it would have made for better viewing. Runs scored at 2.5 runs per over doesn't make for pleasant viewing. Hopefully we'll have a better one for the next game and if not, just learn from whatever we have got."
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo