Looks to be one of India’s bowling mainstays in the coming year
With a Test wickets tally of 80, Pragyan Ojha should soon be joining the select band of Indian left-am spinners who are in the 100-wicket plus club; notably Bishen Singh Bedi (266), Vinoo Mankad (162), Ravi Shastri (151) and Dileep Doshi (114).
There were a few who, in spite of being gifted, were not lucky enough to reach the three figure mark. They are Venkatapathy Raju (93), Maninder Singh (88), Bapu Nadkarni (88) and Salim Durani (75).
In all 24 players have bowled left-arm finger spin for India while the world has seen 202 in all with New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori leading with 360 wickets and followed by England’s Derek Underwood (297).
History has seen the likes of Charlie Blythe, Johnny Briggs, Hedley Verity, Alf Valentine, Tony Lock and Wilfred Rhodes dominate the scene.
Ojha’s may be a far cry from the crafty bowling of the likes of Bedi, Mankad and Durani but for the moment he has fulfilled his claim as the No. 1 left-arm spinner in home conditions.
Sixtythree of his 75 wickets before this Test had come on home pitches which obviously says that he has to prove himself in an away series; but the fact remains that he has played only four away Tests (two each in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka).
The other day India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said that Ojha’s role was more of keeping one end tight and allow Ravichandran Ashwin to attack, but on occasions the left-armer had reversed the roles.
It happened on Saturday when he began getting breakthroughs and finished with five scalps. He was equally adept at bowling with the new and old ball. His big wicket was of course Kevin Pietersen’s; it really pushed England back to the wall.
Ojha would appear to be India’s mainstay right through the home international season that will end with the four Test series against Australia next year.
Indian left-arm spinners have taken 1204 wickets in 475 Tests and 413 of those have contributed to a winning cause (110 Tests) with Bedi leading with 97 victims, Ojha 60 and Raju 58. Ojha’s run per over rate is also impressive at 2.76.
Speaking after the match Ojha said, “I am totally focused on my job. I think nothing much has changed in the pitch; it has just become slow.
“So it’s quite challenging and I enjoy it. The bite off the wicket that we were getting in the first innings has gone down a bit. My job is here to play and perform and as long as my team is winning I don’t care about other things which will take care of themselves.
“I think the most satisfying (part) is to get five wickets against England, especially in the first innings. I am quite satisfied with the way I bowled today. It’s a long series and I have lot of hard work to do, so it’s just a beginning.’’