Cheteshwar Pujara scored 133 in the first innings against Sri Lanka in Colombo. Image Courtesy: Getty Images

One of the mainstays in the Indian middle order in the longest format of the game, Cheteshwar Pujara feels that the current Indian team have the qualities in them to clinch there first ever series in South Africa when the two teams lock horns in January 2018 in a three-Test rubber. India is the No.1 side in the longest format and leads the second-placed South Africa by 14 rating points. They have been dominant in Test cricket but the main test lies when they travel abroad, and South Africa will be the beginning of what to expect from this relatively young team.

The venues for the Three Tests are Cape Town (January 5-9), Centurion (January 13-17), and Johannesburg (January 24-28). Pujara is confident of the fact that this team can become the first Indian team to clinch a Test series in South Africa. India has won only a couple of Tests in South African soil till now and will be looking to improve their record in the upcoming series.

“Yes we have enough potential to win the series, away from home,” Pujara told International Business Times, India during an exclusive interaction today when asked about India’s chances in the upcoming series.

Pujara feels that India who has performed brilliantly in Asia can replicate their performance even in an alien condition outside the sub-continent.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravichandran Ashwin have cleared the Yo-Yo Test. Image Courtesy: Getty Images

“The best part about this team is we have played enough cricket together. We know each other very well. In the last one-and-half years we have hardly lost a Test, although we are playing in Asian conditions.

“The kind of cricket we are playing, we are confident that we can do the same thing away from home. We are very confident that we will put up a good show outside Asia,” Pujara further added. He has been a permanent feature in the Indian Test squad ever since making a brilliant comeback century against Sri Lanka in 2015.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli

Pujara heaped praises on Kohli for doing a wonderful job for India as a captain and also leading by example with the bat in hand. He has been a prolific run scorer across formats and will to continue his golden run during the series against South Africa early next year.

“He (Kohli) has been doing a good job for the Indian team. When it comes to his scores, the numbers speak for him. His work ethics are really good. He is someone who leads the team from the front and really works hard on each and every aspect of his game – whether it is fitness, fielding or batting. That is the advantage for him.

“His mantra for success is hard work. Everyone (in the team) can definitely follow him and do the same thing. If the leader who is someone leading from the front then it definitely helps the team-mates,” he said.

Pujara and Kohli have been the mainstays of Team India in Test cricket.

Pujara has been part of the national set-up for the last seven years. He has had some memorable times but also faced the ignominy of getting dropped from the side but forced his way back after sensational performances in the domestic circuit.

“The (seven-year) journey has been really good so far. There have been ups and downs especially because of the injuries. I am really happy that I have been working hard on my fitness. Now I am fully recovered and there are no injury issues. It is thanks to my fitness and the way I have been working on it since the last couple of years.

“The journey has been fantastic so far and am really satisfied with the way things have progressed. Still, I would like to improve as a cricketer and play different formats of the game,” he said. Pujara has been branded as a Test specialist but the middle order batsman is still hopeful of making a comeback for the national team in the shorter versions.

“Yes I am (hopeful of playing limit-overs cricket for India). I have been working hard on my game. I will keep improving, add few more shots to my game. Going forward I am very hopeful that I will get my opportunities,” said Pujara.

Cheteshwar Pujara has represented Yorkshire and Derbyshire in the past in the English County. Image Courtesy: Getty Images

Currently, Pujara is leading Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy. He stated the fact that playing domestic cricket has always helped him improve his game and it won’t be any different during the upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka at home.

“Ranji Trophy has always helped me to become a better player. And I played so many first-class games before I made my Test debut (in 2010). Playing Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy and India A games have always helped me. Definitely, these Ranji Trophy matches (for Saurashtra) will help me to prepare well for the Sri Lanka Tests at home,” he said.

The Test series against Sri Lanka will be played from November 16 to December 6 with the matches scheduled to be played in Kolkata, Nagpur and Delhi.

Cheteshwar Pujara scored his 13th Test hundred against Sri Lanka in Colombo. Image Courtesy: Getty Images
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