‘c Dravid b Ojha was a dream come true’
Pragyan Ojha played his first Test in 2009 as a shy and soft-spoken 23-year-old left-arm spinner. He was accurate, aware of his strengths and secure enough to bowl well within himself. Almost three years have passed and Ojha has been part of 22 Test matches. And quietly, he has cruised to 100 Test wickets.
When in the first innings of the fourth Test, in Delhi, James Pattinson got deceived by a lovely arm-ball and nicked a catch to Virat Kohli at slip, Ojha became the joint third-fastest Indian bowler to 100 Test wickets, after EAS Prasanna and Anil Kumble.
As he went past the first major milestone of what promises to be a long and successful career, Ojha shared his success with bcci.tv during a chat. He remembered his first Test wicket and spoke fondly about his dream scalp, one that involved Rahul Dravid in the slip cordon. Ojha looked forward to the next step in his Test career – succeeding outside the subcontinent.
How big an achievement is it for you to reach 100 Test wickets?
It’s a great thing. When you’re playing, you don’t realise, but at the end of the day when people start congratulating you, that’s when you realise it’s something special. I was just checking my phone and a lot of people have sent me messages of congratulations, including my senior colleagues from Hyderabad. It’s a great feeling to reach 100 wickets.
One of your childhood heroes, VVS Laxman was here at the Kotla to witness it from the commentary box.
He’s here and I’ll definitely call him. He’s been my role-model and he’s seen me grow up as a kid. It will be a special feeling to share my achievement with him and be congratulated by him. I’m sure he’ll be very happy for me, but I think he’ll be happier if we win this match and take the series 4-0.
Are you the kind who remembers most his wickets?
I remember my first Test wicket. It was of Mahela Jayawardene [in his first Test, in November 2009 against Sri Lanka in Kanpur] and it was quite special. My 100th was James Pattinson and now that will be special too.
Is there any one that stands out as your favourite scalp?
As a kid I always saw Rahul [Dravid] Bhai taking catches in the slip off Anil [Kumble] Bhai and Bhajju Pa’s [Harbhajan Singh] bowling. Since then it was my dream to pick one wicket when the batsman edges the ball in the slip and Rahul Bhai takes the catch. It happened in the third Test of our 2010 tour to Sri Lanka, at the P Sara Oval in Colombo. In the second innings, I bowled a flighted ball to Mahela Jayawardene, he got beaten by the turn and edged it to Rahul Bhai at slip. That’s something I’ll never forget in my life.
Reaching 100 wickets is a special occasion, but it’s only the beginning of a long successful career, isn’t it?
Yes, definitely. This is just the beginning for me. I’ve played only 22 Tests and I’m only a 26-year-old. I still have a long way to go. This is something you can just celebrate and feel good about, but as you said, I also have to remember that there still is a lot to be achieved.
What’s the one quality of yours to which you attribute this success?
The first and foremost thing is that I believe in hard work. I just love to bowl anywhere – in the nets, local games. I don’t miss any opportunity to have a bowl. All my seniors have told me that when you’re in a good patch and have got a good rhythm going, don’t let it slip; just go and play. After playing 22 Tests, you know exactly how things will change and how the wicket will behave. And you adapt your bowling according to that.
From the day you made your debut to this day, in what way have you grown as a bowler?
I have begun to vary my pace; when I started playing, I didn’t have much idea about how to vary my pace, use the crease and play around with the seam. I have started to do all that now, which has added the required variety in my bowling.
You are yet to play a Test outside the subcontinent. Is overseas success the next big box you’d want to tick off?
That is something I want as a cricketer; I want to play and succeed in different parts of the world and in different conditions. When you’re playing on tracks like this [Delhi], as a spinner things are very simple for you. You don’t have to try too many things and just focus on doing the simple things right. It will be a very big challenge for me to go abroad and pick wickets in some tough conditions. But honestly that’s not on my mind right now. My priority right now is to play more and more matches and not miss out on any cricket. If I keep bowling, I’ll keep my rhythm going and really, that’s all I can do to prepare for the coming overseas season.