Cheteshwar Pujara defends India’s four-bowler combination vs Sri Lanka

India’s bowlers failed to seal victory on the final day of the Delhi Test, but Cheteshwar Pujara said the pitch wasn’t helpful enough

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Dec 06, 2017 19:54 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
India vs Sri Lanka,Cheteshwar Pujara,Indian cricket team
India struggled to pick wickets on Day 5 of the third Test in Delhi as Sri Lanka held on for a draw.(AFP)

India’s inability to force victory against Sri Lanka in the final Test ahead of the tough South Africa series raised questions over their decision to go in with four bowlers, instead of five, on the docile Ferozeshah Kotla pitch. (IND v SL 3rd Test, Day 5 HIGHLIGHTS)

Virat Kohli’s side were primed for victory after setting Sri Lanka an improbable 410-run target and reducing them to 31/3 on Tuesday evening. However, Sri Lanka No 3 Dhananjaya de Silva led the fight with 119 not out. (IND v SL 3rd Test, Day 5 SCORECARD)

Though India won the series 1-0, they will be expected to play more aggressively if they are to realise the dream of clinching their first Test series win in South Africa.

Although India are known to play only four bowlers at home, Virat Kohli as captain prefers five bowlers to give his team the best chance of winning. In the second Test in Nagpur too, India fielded only four bowlers to include Rohit Sharma as the sixth batsman, though R Ashwin’s brilliant spell helped beat Sri Lanka by an innings and 239 runs.

Combination abroad

The combination is expected to change in South Africa. India are likely to play three pacers and one of either Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja with all-rounder Hardik Pandya taking up the fifth bowler’s spot.

India No 3 Cheteshwar Pujara defended the four-bowler theory.

“I don’t think so (it made a difference). Overall, we’ve bowled really well, especially looking at this wicket. We were expecting this wicket to deteriorate a little more, on Day 4 or 5. Maybe because of the weather, it was still a flat wicket and didn’t have much help for spinners on the last two days,” he told reporters after the match.

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“Ultimately, the aim is to win a Test. Sometimes you need to try out different options, and we’re going overseas. Let us see what happens once we reach South Africa. We’ll take a call on that, but at this stage we’re looking to try out a few things.

“In India, on any other pitch on day 5, there will be a lot of assistance. At times we get wickets where there is not much help. We just accept it. We’ve played really good cricket throughout the season, done really well as a team, our batsmen have scored runs.”

SA experience

Pujara believes past experience of the players in South Africa could be the key. Kohli, Pujara, Vijay, Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane have all played Tests in that country.

“We have enough experience being in South Africa. I have been there in 2010 and 2013. Many of our players were there in 2013. At the same time, our fast bowling unit is much better now. I think our fast bowlers will do the damage. At one point what the South African batting used to be and what it is now, there is a difference. That will give us some advantage.”

READ | Dhananjaya de Silva defies Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team with 3rd Test century

Rahane’s poor run

Pujara also backed Ajinkya Rahane to come good in South Africa despite his current slump. He scored just 17 runs in five innings in the current series.

“Any batsman will go through a phase where he will not score many runs and Ajinkya is going through the same,” Pujara said.

“He is one of India’s best batsmen and 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 is a hard worker, in his batting, in his fielding, in his fitness. He is an all-round cricketer. So, once he gets a 50 or more, he will get his confidence back and will be a very useful player in South Africa.”

First Published: Dec 06, 2017 19:23 IST