Mumbai: Cheteshwar Pujara, who has climbed to his career-best fifth in the ICC Test batting rankings after a fine series in South Africa, said on Monday that he had worked very hard on the 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 at a media conference in Mumbai organised by his employers, Indian Oil Corporation.
"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.
The Saurashtra-born batsman, who averaged a healthy 70 in the two-Test rubber with a ton in the opening Test at Johannesburg, was one among many sportspersons present at the conference.
Pujara, however, refused to take any question on the tour of South Africa, where India first lost 2-0 in the ODI series of which he was not a part and then 1-0 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.
He also pointed out the importance of the Times Shield inter-office tournaments that he had played for his company in his growth as a player with a penchant for scoring double and triple hundreds.
"I was an Under-19 cricketer when I joined Indian Oil. I have played a lot of Times Shield matches for IOL and I have learnt a lot from people like (former India opener) Wasim Jaffer (who was present) and others," 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 Parupalli 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.
IOL's executive director for Corporate Communications and Branding, Shrikant Bapat, said the oil major takes talented 14-year-old youngsters under its wings on sports scholarships and then gives them a three-year contract before absorbing them as employees.