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Pragyan Ojha - A man of conviction

Pragyan Ojha is a name that must be giving sleepless nights to the English batsmen after the first test at Ahmedabad. And rightly so, as Ojha was instrumental in India’s emphatic win, as he picked up a career best 9/165 including the prized wicket of Alastair Cook in the second innings of the match.

In contrast to the modern day spinners, Ojha is a no mystery bowler and he relies a lot on flighting the ball and hence deceives the batsmen in the air. The way Matt Prior got out in both the innings is a classic example to define the young left arm spinner’s accuracy while flighting the ball. Ojha must have been delighted when he got Kevin Pietersen out in the first innings not only because that was a crucial wicket but also because of the way Pietersen was deceived. It was delicious to watch the replays of those dismissals, as delicious as having a hot gulab jamun in a Delhi winter.

Ojha has often not been rewarded for his performances with adequate number of wickets. Ashwin usually races past Ojha in terms of the wickets tally. The ground reality is that when two spinners bowl in tandem, they constantly try to plan for wickets and the rewards follow depending on the mistakes made by the batsmen. Ojha’s courage, discipline and conviction have made him emerge as the highest wicket-taker in this test.

It’s highly deplorable that Ojha has not been given a single opportunity to play a test in overseas conditions. I understand the fact that we don’t play with two spinners when we play outside the subcontinent but Ojha can certainly make a difference with his wicket-taking ability. Not being a wrist spinner does not disqualify him from being a part of the playing eleven under overseas conditions. The wickets, especially in Australia and South Africa, will help him get a lot of bounce. One more shocking fact is that he was not named in the squad when a depleted Indian side toured West Indies last year just after the 2011 World Cup. The wickets in West Indies have changed a lot over the last few years and currently, they do assist the spinners. Ojha was not even selected for the 2012 T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka despite the fact that the wickets there are spinner-friendly. Who knows, he could have made a difference with his left arm spin and we could have avoided being eliminated in the super 8 stage.

The key  ingredient in Ojha’s bowling over the past year or so has been a mixture of aggression backed by variation in pace. He is one of the few aggressive spinners in world cricket currently. If India is serious about building a strong team in all the three formats of the game, Ojha will be key a contender in all three formats. Looking at Ojha’s consistency, one cannot doubt his ability to play in the limited overs format.

Like many of you, I was also surprised when Ojha was not adjudged as the Man of the match in the 1st Test at Ahmedabad. That is the reason why he is the man of conviction and courage. Let us hope the new selection committee headed by Sandeep Patil is watching the ongoing Test series and Ojha’s performance in particular. After all, it’s the job of the selectors to build the future Indian team.

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