Half-centurion Naman Ojha says he is not thinking of replacing wicketkeeping counterpart Wriddhiman Saha for a place in India’s Test side
Ever since Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s shock retirement from Test cricket earlier this year in Australia, Team India are still seeking an able wicketkeeper-batsman.
On the prowl: Naman Ojha en route his 52 at Brabourne yesterday
Wriddhiman Saha, the selectors’ first choice, hasn’t quite done justice to the opportunities that have come his way. In 13 innings, the Bengal ’keeper has scored only 284 runs at 23.66. After replacing Dhoni behind the stumps, Saha has scored 172 in seven innings which include two half-centuries (both against Sri Lanka in the last Test series). His wicketkeeping against Sri Lanka was poor (he dropped an easy catch of half-centurion Dinesh Chandimal in the Galle Test).
The selectors’ second choice wicketkeeper-batsman Naman Ojha wasn’t very impressive either with the bat (scoring 21 and 35) in his debut Test, the final match at Colombo after Saha was ruled out due to injury.
Coming into the Board President’s XI match against South Africa with two back-to-back half-centuries in three Ranji Trophy matches for Madhya Pradesh, Ojha smashed an impressive 80-ball 52 which included seven fours and a six as the hosts posted 296 on Day One of the two-day warm-up match at Brabourne Stadium yesterday. Dale Steyn and off-spinner Simon Harmer were the pick of the bowlers, claiming three wickets each. SA were 46 for two at stumps, both wickets by Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur.
Yesterday’s knock may have bettered Ojha’s chances of making the cut for the last two Tests against South Africa if Saha does not impress in Mohali and Bangalore.
Chance here: South Africa’s Hashim Amla dives to catch Board President’s XI Shardul Thakur yesterday. Pics/Atul Kamble
Ojha, however, is not looking at the competition. “It is always good to get some runs under the belt. It helps boost your confidence. I am not thinking of replacing Saha. I am focused on my performances and be ready when given an opportunity (in international cricket),” said Ojha.
KL Rahul and Karun Nair revived their team’s hopes after SA quicks Steyn and Vernon Philander reduced Board President’s XI to 3-27 in the first 10 overs. Cheteshwar Pujara, India’s Test specialist, continued to struggle as Philander was successful in getting an edge to second slip fielder Stiaan van Zyl. Rahul may have struck 72, but his 132-ball knock was far from convincing, with most of his runs coming in the third man and fine leg region. On a number of occasions the SA pacers were successful in beating his bat and were unfortunate as well when the edges did not carry. Nair’s aggressive 44 prevented the South Africans from completely dominating the proceedings. Once Rahul departed shortly after the lunch break, top edging to Faf du Plessis at square leg off Harmer, Ojha put on a 53-run partnership with Sheldon Jackson for the sixth wicket. “I have learnt to stay at the wicket with my domestic experience,” Ojha said.