India in South Africa 2013-14 December 24, 2013

'We have more positives than them' - Pujara


India and South Africa know it will be important to put the last draw behind them and start afresh for Durban - which might be difficult with only three days' gap in between - but India continued to try to claim psychological advantage after they pushed the No. 1 side to the brink in their backyard. Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored 153 in the second innings in Johannesburg and was part of the highest partnership of the match, said South Africa had more reason to be disappointed after Wanderers.

"If we look at the last game, we have more positives than them because when we batted first the ball was doing a bit," Pujara said. "We batted well and when they batted in the first innings there wasn't much help for the bowlers so the kind of comeback we made in [their] first innings. On the last day we were expecting more movement from the cracks but it didn't happen. So I think they had the opportunity to bat well when the wicket was better and when we batted - even in the second innings - the ball was doing a bit. When they batted, at times there was a little bit of movement but they were lucky enough to survive."

In pushing South Africa to the edge, India also had to bowl their bowlers for longer than they would have liked considering the next Test starts in three days' time. Two days after the match, Zaheer Khan - he bowled more than he has ever done in a Test - and Ishant Sharma gave the optional training session a miss. Pujara reassured that recovery should not be a problem.

"Such close matches you expect in Test format," Pujara said. "It was a very exciting Test. Don't think there is any problem with the recovery. We are training a lot so we are fit enough to prepare for the next game, and there were a lot of positives for us to go ahead with a positive frame of mind in this match."

Emotional and mental recovery, though, might be a different issue. "It was difficult because we felt that we had a very good chance to win the match but just one partnership in one particular session didn't go our way," Pujara said. "So emotionally and mentally coming out [of it] and playing this match will be important. We have to forget what happened and focus on our plans after looking at the wicket tomorrow and work accordingly."

From what he has seen of South Africa's batting, Pujara believes India can bowl them out twice. "The kind of batting line-up they have we have got a very good chance to bowl them out," Pujara said. "Just AB [de Villiers] and Faf [du Plessis] were able to score big runs. Apart from them no one got big runs. So it's a positive sign for us. We also believe that we can get them out. Also if you look at the last session, they were cautious about not going for the target so they are worried about their tail-enders not batting through. So it's a positive sign for us."

India will take heart from the fact that Dale Steyn returned his worst figures in a Test, but will also be wary that Steyn, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis are all unlikely to fail in back-to-back Tests. Pujara was not getting drawn into any complacence regarding Steyn. "It's a good thing for us that he didn't get any wickets," Pujara said, "but he is a good bowler so we don't want to underestimate him. And we have to be careful against him even in this match so as a team we can't take him lightly. It's just that we had very good success, and we will try and continue the same thing in this match."

South Africa's spinner, though, is a different story. "Think [Imran] Tahir didn't bowl well," Pujara said. "Kind of expectations South Africa had of him, he didn't bowl well enough and they also knew that they would have to bowl [JP] Duminy and him because Morne Morkel was injured in the second innings so we took the advantage and wanted to capitalise when they were on and we were successful. On that wicket there wasn't much help for the spinners so I don't want to rate anybody but I think we batted well and Indians are known to bat well against spinners."

South Africa look more positive about Morkel's fitness than they did during the last Test. Pujara was not praying for his recovery, though. "It will make a huge difference for them because the kind of bounce he gets from the wicket it's difficult to score runs against," Pujara said. "They will have to bring in a new fast bowler, so whoever comes in hasn't been playing for them. Even when they played in Abu Dhabi I don't think he played that match. It's a new guy coming in and now they have to think about their bowling line-up. Steyn and Morkel are used to bowling in partnership so it will make a huge difference."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nampally on December 26, 2013, 16:05 GMT

    I would say to Pujara that real positive now is Vijay's batting on Day 1 of second Test. Of course Pujara's 50 is another expected positive. Pujara is the best disciplined batsmen that India had over the last decade or more. I have said this before- he has the patience of Vijay Hazare, technique of Gavaskar & defence of Jaisimha -3 past greats rolled into ONE. Now if India converts this to the 2007 Oval Test match Total > 600, then that is "real positive" for the team India. What eventually matters is the result & to be honest India set a winnable target of over 450 in the 4th innings to SA. Only the brain cramp of Steyn & Philander helped India to a draw. The real Negative for India not winning was playing with 4 bowlers. India had a chance to correct this but they have persisted with the 4 bowler attack again. Unless India hang on to every catch & is brilliant on the field, it is tough to get 20 wkts. Team composition was the biggest Negative & it sadly still persists in Test 2!

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 26, 2013, 6:30 GMT

    @Saud Choudhry, showing respect doesn't mean bending over backwards or prostrating on their knees. These are men with pride, adrenaline, testosterone and a craft to boot. Looks like any Indian player should not have self-confidence and should not be assertive. Wonder why? We shouldn't say that we had more positives. We shouldn't say that we are confident and we can compete. We shouldn't think if you are good enough to play, then so are we on a world stage. I think Pujara should have said we are useless, we don't know how to hold bat and we are past due date. Well, did you expect Pujara to go there and say, no we didn't have any positives and only SA had positives? Or both of us had positives? You are right. Pujara is not a sportsperson. And he doesn't know what is meant by taking more positives from a game. A pauper that he is in batting, how would he know as much as you do about positives? Yeah, right!! Amla is a giant and Pujara is no slouch! And neither is Kohli!

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 26, 2013, 6:17 GMT

    Legitimate mode of dismissals that the opposition can claim against India:

    #1 Indian batsmen shall attempt a run if and only if they hit the ball straight to the fielder at a comfortable speed for the fielder to grab the ball without any risk of injury or emotional trauma or mental stress and then be able to throw it without any hurry. If Indian batsmen attempt a run failing to meet any of those conditions, then they will be given run-out legitimately.

    #2 Indian batsmen must hit a boundary not from in between the fielders but through the fielders' body (but how?). The gaps between the fielders are for allowing the air to flow freely on the ground. Indian batsmen shall not illegitimately hit between the fielders. If they do, then they are out, legitimately.

    #3 Indian batsmen shall be declared out if the ball goes in the air away from the fielders. Remember, Indian batsmen were already told the rules that they should always hit only to the fielders in air or along the ground.


  • dummy4fb on December 26, 2013, 5:46 GMT

    India played well. They dominated for the most part. But then SA came roaring back and to chase a total like that speaks volumes about their depth and talent. If Amala hadn't made the same dumb mistake twice, if Kallis wasn't given out mistakenly, if...... and that's a lot of ifs, who knows what the final outcome would have been. Pujara played very well. But to speak of the South Africans in the dismissive manner that he did, does not do justice to the world's best teams. Steyn is still the world's best quick; Amal is the best batsman on the planet. If Pujara aspires to reach their heights, he should learn to show more respect for these giants of the game.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 26, 2013, 5:33 GMT

    So, as per some fans' knowledgeable inputs and insights into cricket, the following shall be implemented with immediate effect in all matches that India plays.

    #1 It shall be called illegitimate if any Indian player threatens to run-out an opponent. This will completely remove the chance of Indians indulging in any illegitimate run-outs.

    #2 It shall be called illegitimate if any Indian bowler, pacer/spinner/part-timer, appeals for any inside edge bowled. This will completely remove the chance of Indian bowlers claiming a wicket for the above described incidents, should they occur.

    #3 It shall be called illegitimate if any Indian fielder takes a running catch. The fielder was asked by the captain to stay in a certain place and so it is illegitimate for him to run and take a catch. As a punishment 5 runs shall be awarded to the opponents per over for the whole day. This will deter the Indian fielders from taking illegitimate running catches.

    Yours truly, Sweet-Grape Cricket Pundits.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 26, 2013, 4:24 GMT

    @Harmony111, mate runouts are legitimate if and only if Jonty, Warner, Steyn, Ponting get direct hits. It is illegitimate if Azhar, Ajay Jadeja, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahane, Kohli, Dhawan get direct hits. You see my point? That's called cricketing sense and not straw-man's argument. Next, getting bowled off inside edge is legitimate if and only if Mitch, Anderson, Siddle, Steyn, Broad, Philander, Morkel get them. It should be outlawed as illegitimate if Zaheer, Kapil, Shami, Yadav, BK, Srinath get them. Same again - cricketing sense and not straw-man's argument. Chris_P is just getting desperate. Leave him at that. Next, mate a side that is supposed to roll over and pretend dead gave SA a run for their money. Next, a side that is supposed to beat us black and blue in under 3 days, in reality couldn't win even on 5th day. You see, that is a huge positive for SA. Again, that is cricketing sense and not sour-grapes. Learn mate how to analyse cricket. ;-) you see my point nah?!

  • android_user on December 26, 2013, 4:17 GMT

    I think pujara should not be exposed to media more often.... he is naturally shy, he speaks straight to the point, and that is dangerous.... ashwin is the best speaker in this Indian team, and let him do all the press conferences.... ashwin is mature and knows how to speak according to situation.... none of the Indian team players can speak as ashwin does.... no offence to pujara, but he should not be exposed to media this early in his career. ....

  • cricfan57779427 on December 26, 2013, 2:13 GMT

    @blogossip, you said "SA didn't win because overs were completed" and for me this reason sounds very funny. First of all India was supposed to win and then turned to SA's side and finally drawn. Looking at SA's approach India could have easily won the match if Dhoini had approach aggressively on 5th day. SA really can't take pressure and it was proven in last hours on 5th day.

  • SRAM20 on December 26, 2013, 1:41 GMT

    "IND w/o Pujara is totally finished"????? WTH????? Were you blind enough to not notice Kohli, Rahane and Viijay's contributions in that first test? Kohli scored 119 and 96, Rahane scored 49 in the 1st innings, Vijay scored 39 in the 2nd innings. Kohli and Pujara did the bulk of the scoring, but everyone (barring Dhawan and Rohit) chipped in with cameo efforts at some point in the first test.

    SA should worry more since the wicket for the 2nd test is a dry one helping spinners. India are mighty dangerous on such wickets. Its bread and butter for them. If the wicket stays the same, I expect India to stun SA and pocket a series win.

  • Nampally on December 26, 2013, 1:18 GMT

    Pujara, India cannot play a 5 day Test match with just 4 Bowlers. No body in their right senses will dare to do so after stretching ZAK to almost his breaking point & asking him to go at it with just 3 days rest. It is sheer lunacy if India do not include another seamer who has fresh legs. Even a young man like Morkel broke down in the last test. India was lucky to escape with no injuries. Having said that, do not temp fate! If India cannot take 20 wkts. they do not win. SA has at least 6 good bowlers & given half a chance they will get thru' Indian batting. They also have batting till #8. India has 4 Bowlers + just 4 consistent batsmen. Talking positives from past is futile when India drew a winnable test. Go forward & see what needs to be done to stay competitive. Right now India needs additional fresh legs. Don't bury your head in the sand & accept the deficiency with corrective action. It is better to Walk the Talk. Real action needed is a fresh seamer to fill the need of the Hour