File photo of India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara during a Test match. (AFP)
Mumbai: Cheteshwar Pujara, who has climbed to his career-best fifth in the ICC Test rankings for batsmen after a fine series in South Africa, on Monday said he had worked very hard on his fitness in the last six months after his knee surgery in 2011.
Pujara aggregated 280 runs in the recently-concluded two-Test series against South Africa. "I am really satisfied with my performance over the last one to one-and-a-half years. I have worked hard on my game. I have also worked hard on my fitness over the last 4-6 months after the surgery. I am paying a lot of attention to fitness.
"I was a bit lazy in my gym sessions earlier," said Pujara. "Improved fitness helps one to concentrate more when batting. I want to keep improving as a cricketer," said the 25-year-old batsman, who underwent a surgery in London after tearing a knee ligament in IPL-4 at Bangalore.
Pujara, however, refused to take any question on the tour of South Africa, where India first lost 0-2 in the ODI series of which he was not a part and then 0-1 in the two-Test rubber that followed.
"I am not allowed [by Cricket Board's contract] to talk about past or future tours," he said.
Present at the media conference to answer questions apart from Pujara and Jaffer were fellow-cricketer Ajinkya Rahane, snooker champion Aditya Mehta, shuttlers P Kashyap, Arun Vishnu, Aparna Balan, new national 200m sprint champion Amiya Mallick from Orissa and carrom champions Yogesh Pardeshi and K Srinivas.
Rahane, who came of age with scores of 51 not out and 96 in the second Test that India lost at Durban, also refused to talk about the just-concluded SA tour or the upcoming trip to New Zealand, citing BCCI's contract as the reason.
"Mental toughness is very important at the highest level of the game and I am working hard on this aspect," said the 25-year-old Mumbai player.
While Rahane is a part of the ODI as well as Test squad to tour New Zealand later this month, Pujara would figure only in the two Tests that follow the five-match limited overs series that starts on January 19 and concludes on January 31.