It seemed as though the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) had kept him under wraps or buried him low in the batting order.
Elevated to one-down against Kings XI Punjab on Wednesday, Naman Vinaykumar Ojha’s batting bloomed, right in front of the squad’s home-crowd, delirious with delight at his exploits. As if he’d been starved of strike, the Ujjain native embarked on an apparently gentle yet devastating assault that left the Punjab attack gasping.
“It was a fantastic innings, with a very positive approach to batting,” V.V.S. Laxman told The Hindu. “To see such clean hitting against the seamers and spinners was nice.
“Naman always lives up to the roles assigned to him anywhere in the batting order, be it his brace of sixes that brought victory against Delhi, or the freedom with which he played against Punjab,” gushed the batting maestro and SRH mentor.
For the low-profile wicket-keeper batsman, who mostly grew up in the trading town of Ratlam, in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh, self-discipline was a credo he strictly abided by.
“Face the next ball and try nothing fancy,” would ring in his ears as he preferred to play ground strokes.
Yet, against a side spurred mostly by batting muscle, Ojha decided to flex his own. This was a big stage that called for big deeds. Seven sixes and four boundaries decorated his unconquered 36-ball 79, deployed just where he wanted to and more with refined timing rather than brutish might. Until then, six-hitting had not looked so effortlessly easy.
Driving him on perhaps were Mahela Jayawardene’s words of wisdom: Don’t think, just play naturally. Beefing up the vegetarian-by-choice’s batting was the belief reposed in his abilities by no less than Shane Warne himself, who backed him to open for the Rajasthan Royals.
On that stint with the opening season’s champion, he shared batting duties with the likes of Graeme Smith. Never one to miss out on some mentoring, he was all ears when talking to Virender Sehwag, David Warner or Kevin Pietersen during a stint with the Delhi Daredevils.
For more motivation, he delves into ‘Think like a champion,’ the seminal sports psychology tome penned by Dr. Rudi Webster.
“Concepts in that book help me connect to cricket better,” said Ojha.
Does he have a specific mantra for the high expectations and pressures of the Indian Premier League (IPL)? “Stick to the basics and runs will come,” he says.
Born to a banker father and teacher mother, his taste for the joys of life is simple. “I play badminton, go for a swim or relax in the room with a light comedy movie,” says Ojha.