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“Never thought that I would replace Mahi bhai” - Naman Ojha

Naman Ojha
Naman Ojha
Modified 22 Feb 2021

Recently-retired wicketkeeper-batsman Naman Ojha has stated that he never harbored hopes of replacing Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the Indian team.

Naman Ojha played only one Test match for India, in Sri Lanka in 2015, as his cricketing career coincided with that of Dhoni. The domestic legend said that he was always ready to perform any role for the team but the opportunities never came.

In an interaction with Sportskeeda’s Indranil Basu in an SK Live session on Facebook, Naman Ojha made it clear:

“I had never thought that I would replace Mahi bhai (MS Dhoni). I always thought that I would play with him, under him. He is a legend and he was the backbone of the Indian team. So I thought I could play under him whenever I got a chance. I have opened for 14-15 years for MP, batted at No. 3, 4, 5… whatever number the team management wanted me to bat at. So I had that experience. My thought process was that I can play with Mahi bhai as an opener or in the middle-order or if he wanted to take rest in a Test match, I could keep.”

While Naman Ojha played two T20Is and one ODI apart from the Lanka Test, Dhoni went on to become India’s greatest wicketkeeper-batsman and one of the country’s most successful captains. He is the only skipper in cricketing history to have captured all three ICC trophies.

So near yet so far for Naman Ojha, more than once

While the 37-year-old did not regret not getting a longer rope with the Indian team, he admitted he felt he would be rewarded for his domestic performances on more than one occasion. Naman Ojha recalled:

“I did well in IPL 2014. Then we went to Australia for the A tour. I performed very well over there. In two Test matches, I scored around 430 runs at an average of 430. I got out only once, in the second match. I was hopeful that I would get a chance. I went to England for the last two Test matches. I thought I would play the last Test because it was already 2-1 in England’s favour. It didn’t happen. But it’s okay. I came back to India and I got a double hundred in the Duleep Trophy against North Zone in Chandigarh. Then I was sure that I would get my chance.”

The former keeper-batsman, who played 146 first-class games in a domestic career spanning two decades, continued:

“Next, we went to Australia and selectors picked me for only one Test match. After that, next Test match, Mahi bhai (MS Dhoni) took retirement. I thought that they will call me again. But I didn’t get that call. I kept scoring runs in domestic cricket. I got a 150 against Mumbai, a hundred against Karnataka and match-saving knock against Tamil Nadu in Tamil Nadu on a turning track. Then IPL happened. But when the team went to Bangladesh, I was again not in the squad."

On how he finally got a chance to make his Test debut, Naman Ojha said:

“For Sri Lanka also I was not selected. Then last Test match, (Wriddhiman) Saha got injured and I got a call. According to me, I played very well in that Test.”

Naman Ojha scored 21 and 35 in the Test, and was also impressive behind the stumps, taking four catches and effecting one stumping. It was to remain the only Test match of his international career.

Published 22 Feb 2021, 01:20 IST
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