Kolkata: India's fielding coach Trevor Penney on Thursday defended Cheteshwar Pujara, who dropped England captain Alastair Cook in the slips. The opener then went on to score a magnificent unbeaten 136 to put his team in a commanding position against India at the Eden Gardens on the second day of the third Test.
"Pujara has been practising slip catching for quite a while now. He is by far our best catcher. Obviously it was a big mistake, but such things do happen in cricket," Penney said.
The dropped chance was one of the very few opportunities that came India's way during the day. Cook, then on 17, had edged Zaheer Khan's away going delivery. Penney, however, had no answers for the frequent juggling of fielders in the slip cordon.
"Ravichandran Ashwin, Pujara and Virat Kohli have been practising slip catching and they are good fielders and doing well at the nets. They are perhaps capable enough to replace [Rahul] Dravid and [VVS] Laxman who were excellent slip catchers," said Penney.
But he conceded that the Indians were a bit off colour in the field and conceded some runs which should not have been. "Maybe we didn't put the best fielders in the right positions. We did not take our chances. Those little things matter a lot in the end," he said.
The coach hoped that the hosts would make a comeback in the match after England batted well to reach 216 for 1. "Tomorrow is a fresh day and if we can take some quick wickets we can be back in the match," he added.
Despite being at the receiving end of England's dominance in the ongoing third Test, Penney held out hope of a fightback from the hosts, saying it could still be "even-stevens" if they manage a few early wickets on Friday.
"If we can get three or four wickets early may be it's evens-stevens after the first innings. So we are still confident, we just need a couple of breakthroughs," Penny said.
The Zimbabwean admitted that in-form rival skipper Alastair Cook who notched up his third ton of the series, would be the key man.
"Cook's a key one. He is in prime form, he has really played well in the last three weeks. Try and get him and the match could be even-stevens. It's wide open," he said.
Asked whether India's invincibility at home is under threat, he said: "Definitely not. Just two weeks ago, we won convincingly. Last week we had everything in our favour after day one but let it slip, with a very good innings by Kevin Pietersen.
"This match, maybe we should have got more runs in the first innings but tomorrow is a new day."
Describing Cook as ultra confident at the moment, Penny said, "He's right up there. He's at the top of his game. Ultra confident. And he's getting the breaks, a dropped catch or an lbw or something in these last three games.
"And he goes on to get the big ones, that's his strength."