Not often do we see a veteran spin bowler, having more than 400 Test wickets in his kitty, warming the benches as his teammates fight against the No. 2 Test team. But Harbhajan Singh went through the tough phase. We all are aware of his potential, and a bowler has to be extremely special to keep him out of the team. But Pragyan Ojha isn’t an ordinary bowler.
Slowly and steadily Ojha has cemented his place in the playing eleven. Harbhajan Singh has been off colour for quite some time; meanwhile, Ojha has capitalised on the opportunities which have come his way. The left-arm spinner has outplayed Harbhajan in terms of consistency and discipline on a consistent basis. In recent times, he has been rewarded for his accuracy and patience too.
Sourav Ganguly is known for recognising talented cricketers from an early stage. Yuvraj, Zaheer, and Harbhajan were lucky to have played under his captaincy and he had shown immense faith in all of them and they went on to become phenomenal cricketers.
For a long time, Ganguly had been heaping lots of praise for Ojha, who has this tendency to bowl with an accurate line and length. The first Test match between India and England was a perfect example. Cook stood tall between India and their much deserved victory in the second innings; and he, along with Prior, continued to frustrate Dhoni and his men.
On the fifth day, Team India hit the ground with a single aim – to dismiss Alastair Cook. Prior and the England skipper continued to annoy the Indian bowlers. While most of the bowlers were clueless, Pragyan Ojha continued to bowl at the same line and length with subtle variation. His patience paid off and Dhoni’s happiness had no bounds as one of Ojha’s deliveries finally breached through Cook’s defence. It was the match for India!
He was the purple cap holder in the third edition of the Indian Premier League, after which he was selected for Team India and he got to make his ODI debut. In spite of having made his Test debut in November 2009, Ojha has just 17 Tests to his name. He is still an under-rated spinner. But in recent times, he has done well for the Indian team. And as we all know, no matter how experienced you are, skipper Dhoni shows faith only in men who are in form.
Ojha is now ranked 5th in the ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers. Above him are the likes of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Saeed Ajmal and Rangana Herath. It’s a huge achievement for a bowler who has played just 17 Test matches. The big difference between him and Harbhajan is that he doesn’t change his line if he is dispatched for a boundary off a good delivery. Bhajji has been struggling over the last one year as he immediately gets under pressure, when hit for a boundary.
The Indian team has been devoid of good left-arm spinners ever since Bishan Singh Bedi retired in the year 1979, making his last international appearance against England at the Oval. Murali Kartik did make his presence felt at times, yet we didn’t get to see the best of him as he played in an era when Kumble and Harbhajan were at their peak.
But with Kumble no longer around, Ojha seems to be the perfect option for the Indian cricket team. The selectors and Dhoni are showing a lot more confidence in him; something, which has been the driving force behind his rise. Ojha might have just 84 scalps to his name, yet he has the right attitude towards bowling – something that will make Dhoni prioritise him over Harbhajan in the future.