India head coach Rahul Dravid has backed senior top-order batter Cheteshwar Pujara to do well in the second Test at the Wanderers, saying that the Rajkot-based batter has achieved a lot in the years he has played Test cricket. Pujara, undergoing a lean patch, was dismissed for a golden duck during India’s first innings in the first Test at Centurion. In the second innings, he made only 16 runs off 64 balls and fell twice to Lungi Ngidi.
“I hate using the word ‘concerned’. He is doing the best he can. I do recognise that at times, certainly, he’d like to score more. Someone like him sets really high standards for himself. He has achieved a lot in the ten years he has played cricket. He knows the highs he has had and the kind of success, performances, or runs scored in the past. He would like to replicate that and keep doing that over and over again,” said Dravid in the virtual press conference on the eve of the second Test.
“Sometimes it doesn’t happen but it’s not about being worried, it is about the position he bats which is a bit tough in these conditions. When you get to set, it is nice of your top three or four getting to convert a big score. If that happens, it sets you up very well as a team. It would be great if Pujara does that because we know when he does that, a lot of times India do win those games or put yourself in a really good position,” added Dravid, who captained India in the past.
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Talking about the pitch at the Wanderers, Dravid reckoned it could turn out in its typical fashion. “The pitch looks good. It’s like a typical Wanderers wickets, might be something in it for the bowlers, which usually is. Might flatten out a bit and batting could get hard towards the end. A good practice session in the afternoon meant a chance to assess those conditions and see what they are like. But, generally a result wicket at the Wanderers, so both teams have to play well as both are capable of picking 20 wickets if the weather holds well.”
India have got a great record at the Wanderers, winning two Tests in 2006 and 2018 apart from drawing thrice against South Africa. Asked about the reasons behind India’s good record at the venue, Dravid couldn’t pinpoint a reason behind it.
“We’ve done well, even from the time that I played here. For some reason, the boys have always enjoyed playing at the Wanderers. It’s a quicker pitch, but maybe the bounce maybe hasn’t been as much as at Centurion in the past. But it is a strange one, it’s one of those things, I can’t exactly put a finger on what reason is. It may be a familiarity with the city, the ground, for some reason we’ve always done well there and it is hard to figure out why, but I really hope we continue that now.”
But what caught Dravid’s eye more was the challenging and result-oriented nature of the match in the Wanderers. “It is a challenging wicket. One of the things you do know when you go into a game at the Wanderers is that generally if the weather holds over five days, you do expect a result there. It is one of the exciting aspects of being in contests like we’ve had there, is that you know there will be a result and hopefully that result goes your way and for that, you need to play well.”
The 48-year-old signed off by saying that the team is guarded against complacency creeping in the next match once India wins a series opener. “It will mean a lot to the group of guys to be able to win a Test match here. However, we are really conscious of the fact that we’ve been 1-0 up and were before in the past in these conditions and there is no guarantee that we will go on and win this Test series.”
“We will have to work really hard over the next five days and play some really good cricket. I expect South Africa to bounce back as they usually do. We will have to play really well. We have the capability, the confidence, and the team to do it, but we need to execute the skills in the next five days.”