He has remained an unsung performer on the domestic circuit for almost nine seasons now. When he left native Ratlam, a town not known for any cricketing exploits, Naman Ojha had just one dream — to play for the country. His pursuit continues even as he makes waves in the ongoing Indian Premier League.
The 26-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, who plays for Madhya Pradesh, was not in the scheme of things for Rajasthan Royals. It took some time before he could establish his credentials but now his team has come to realize that he is a potential match-winner.
With an aggregate of 352 in 11 matches, he stands third in the batting list, below Jacques Kallis and Sachin Tendulkar. “I am not surprised that he has done well for himself,” says his coach Sanjay Jagdale, a former National junior and senior selector and currently the joint-secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
Jagdale runs a club in Indore — the Cricket Club of Indore — an institution known for its discipline and dedication. Students are taught not just the basic of the game but also learn lessons in its history. Even international players from the club like Narendra Hirwani and Amay Khurasiya have learnt how to tend the field and prepare pitches. The students have to toll the pitch daily and learn the art. Ojha can lay claim to a sound grooming.
Ability to raise his game
Two knocks in IPL3 from Ojha reflected on his ability to raise his game when challenged. The 49-ball 80 against Chennai Super Kings at Ahmedabad set up a win for Rajasthan Royals and five days later he produced a scintillating 94 against the same opposition. This time the team lost but Ojha left his mark in the unbeaten innings.
“I have enjoyed my stints in IPL so far. It gives a challenge of a different kind. There is pressure and there are lessons to be learnt. It helps immensely when you play with some current and former international stars,” said the 26-year-old Ojha.
Playing in the company of Shane Warne has helped Ojha develop a more professional approach to the game. “It is amazing how he continues to motivate everyone on the field. He infuses such confidence that you obviously look at raising your game. All the youngsters in the team have gained so much from watching Warne.”
Has the skill
Jagdale observed, “He is a match-winner. He is a shaky starter sometimes but he has the skill to develop an innings. Naman has played many match-winning knocks for Madhya Pradesh and I am happy at his progress.”