Cheteshwar Pujara has expressed his disappointment about India’s worrying slip catching problem and is not sure what exactly the solution may be. He has also stated that the team was well prepared to take on South Africa and expected their 2013 tour experience to help them on Protea soil.
Cheteshwar Pujara has been a designated close-in fielder at short leg and silly point in Tests, but he fielded at the slip cordon during the Nagpur Test and fared well at the first slip. However, that hardly changed the fortunes of the slip cordon as in the third Test in Delhi, Shikhar Dhawan dropped a catch off Dilruwan Perera while Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma dropped Angelo Mathews – allowing him to score his first century in India.
"It is a difficult question to answer as I don't know technically what is going wrong. I do agree that we haven't taken enough catches, we are working hard. To be honest, we put in a lot of hard work in our fielding, especially we know catching is very important. All players standing in the slips are taking 50 to 100 catches. So we are trying to improve ourselves and eventually, results will come."
Slip cordon is a specialist's position in Test cricket, as the position demands a great amount of concentration, but India
"To be honest, we haven't fielded well [in the slips] and I would accept that. At the same time, there have been injuries where openers have missed out. Someone like Murali Vijay, who used to be at first slip didn't play due to injury, he didn't play cricket for 6 months. So we had to replace Vijay with someone. So there have been occasions, where batsmen have got injured and we had to replace [the slip fielder] with some other player. We haven't taken many catches but we will definitely get better at it. Overall, the Indian team has improved as a fielding unit but slip fielding is something we are still looking to improve," said Pujara
While Ajinkya Rahane is regarded as one of the best catchers in the side and has shown his prowess against spinners time and again, he has always manned the gully position. And Pujara believes that using Rahane to solve the slip cordon issues will not help India in a long run.
"When we're talking about defining a fielding position, Ajinkya [Rahane] has been fielding at gully for quite a long time. We don't want to disturb him from there. And the way he's fielding when the spinners are bowling, he is
"We are having a chat about it [slip fielding woes] and we will assign a few players, throughout the away series. We will prepare a few players who will be standing at the slips. We will discuss when we reach SA but we are already talking about that," he added.
Ajinkya Rahane has been the only chink in India’s armour in the series against Sri Lanka as he returned with scores of 4, 0, 2, 1, and 10 in the five innings in this series. But Pujara backed his middle-order partner to cross the difficult phase and come back with elan.
“Talking about Ajinkya’s form, he has batted very well overall. Any batsman will go through a phase where he will not score many runs. Ajinkya is going through the same thing.
“He is one of India’s best batsmen and he has scored a lot of runs, in India and even overseas. We fully support him to make a comeback. Technically, I really don’t need to tell him what he has to do. He knows, he is a hard worker, in his batting, in his fielding, in his fitness … Once he gets a fifty or more, he will get his confidence back and he will be a very useful player in South Africa.”
With the Sri Lanka series, India's long home season has also come to an end and now as the team heads to South Africa to play arguably the most challenging series of recent times. The series will also mark India's sojourn on the challenging soils in Australia and England and Pujara believes that the team can use their 2013 experience to perform better in the African country.
“At the same time, our fast bowling unit is much better now. I think our fast bowlers will do the damage. I feel that at one point South African batting what it used to be and what it is now, there is a difference. That will give us some advantage.”