Pragyan Ojha’s captivating performance with the red cherry in the first Test against England in Ahmedabad has not just impressed his Indian skipper and teammates, but also his childhood idol Venkatapathy Raju, himself a left-arm spinner for India.
Ojha’s guile as well as his consistent line and length forced the England batsmen to dance to his tune as India won by nine wickets yesterday.
Ojha was instrumental in dismissing England’s top performers with the bat in both innings — skipper Alastair Cook (41 and 176) and wicketkeeper Matt Prior (48 and 91).
Skipper MS Dhoni was well aware that Cook and Prior were the only obstacles they had to clear to fancy their chances of winning the match. Once Ojha managed to break the duo’s resolute batting show, it didn’t take the hosts much time to bundle out the rest. The England pair remained unconquered on Sunday with the visitors on 340 for five, an overall lead of 10 runs. Needing 77 runs to record their first win at Motera in seven years, India achieved the target when they made 80 for one in 16.3 overs with more than half a day to spare.
Raju, a former national selector, reckoned Ojha has become a complete Test bowler now. “It is good that he is getting a good run in the team now. I have always said that he can be a match-winner if he’s provided with few more opportunities. It is certainly helping him. The way he bowled in this Test, it shows he has become a complete Test bowler,” Raju told MiD DAY yesterday.
Ojha claimed five for 45 in the England’s first innings and four for 120 in the second dig at the Sardar Patel Stadium, in Ahmedabad.
“He showed patience when the conditions were not helping him. He maintained a consistent line and length irrespective of the result. He kept bowling in the areas where he believed he would get a wicket. He didn’t try too many things which also helps in Indian conditions. He showed all the qualities of a good Test bowler,” said the former cricketer from Hyderabad, a team Ojha represents in the Ranji Trophy.
Dhoni was more reliant on his spin duo rather than his pacers. Ravichandran Ashwin, who claimed 3-80 and 1-111, bowled 70 overs in the match while Ojha bowled 77.2 overs, the most in a game by him. Raju said Ojha has to be watchful of his workload in the ongoing Test series if Dhoni continues to play with two specialist spinners.
“He has bowled enough in the first Test and has very less time for recovery before the second Test (in Mumbai from November 23-27),” said Raju before adding, “His performance in the first Test should give him good confidence for the remaining matches. That confidence will also reflect in his bowling as his place in the team is secured.
“The more challenging cricket he plays, the better he will become.”
Number of Man of the Match awards bagged by Cheteshwar Pujara in his short span of six Test matches.
Number of Test matches India have won against England. Their last win was at Chennai in 2008 — a series which was interrupted by the terror attacks in Mumbai. India have lost 38 and drawn 46.
Number of runs scored by Matt Prior is the second highest by an England wicketkeeper in a Test match on Indian soil. Dick Spooner made 92 in the 1951-52 Kolkata Test.
Captain MS Dhoni’s Test wins is the second highest — next to Sourav Ganguly’s 21.