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Pragyan Ojha working on batting skills to make it to squad

Left-arm spinner, who was dropped in South Africa despite being man-of-the-match at Wankhede, aims to make a comeback to the Indian XI

Rarely does one hear of players who have won the man-of-the-match award in their last international outing be relegated to the sidelines for the team’s next games. But that, curiously has been the case with Pragyan Ojha.

India's Pragyan Ojha during a net session at Lady Bay CC in Nottingham on June 9, 2009. Pic/Getty Images
India's Pragyan Ojha during a net session at Lady Bay CC in Nottingham on June 9, 2009. Pic/Getty Images 

The left-arm spinner was brilliant in Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell Test at the Wankhede Stadium against West Indies last November, taking 10 wickets en route to being named player-of-the-match. It was a performance not sufficient for him to win a place in the couple of Tests that India played in South Africa in December. What’s more, he was dropped from the Test team that will play New Zealand in the two-Test series which kicks off next week.

Ojha, nevertheless, has not let the disappointment of missing out on these games get to him and is busy training in Hyderabad, looking forward to a fruitful 2014. “These things are bound to happen at the international level, so I did not waste time sitting and thinking about my exclusion.

In fact, I have spoken at length to VVS Laxman and he has been very helpful. His message to me has been very clear: Work hard and you will certainly be back in the team,” Ojha told MiD DAY
yesterday. “I have been training very hard. In South Africa, although I was not part of the XI, I was working on my fitness and bowling. Even now, I am in Hyderabad and have worked with our fitness trainer,” he added.

Batting problems
Currently, the one thing that goes against Ojha, especially when India play one spinner in the playing XI is his batting. He loses out to R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja simply because they hold an edge in this department. That’s something he has realised and has been working to improve on. “These days, it’s difficult to be part of the XI only if you are a good bowler.

The team is looking for players who can contribute 15-20 runs with the bat lower down the order. That’s why, of late I have spent a lot of time working on my batting. I hope I can score more runs whenever I get a chance to play.” India are scheduled to play a total of nine Tests in England and Australia over the next 12 months and Ojha hopes he can get a taste of their conditions by featuring in some county games.

“I have no offers as of now, but I would definitely consider playing some games in England to get accustomed to the conditions. Of course, it all depends on the schedule that is drawn up. I would also like to visit Australia, but let’s see how things work out.” Another big event that’s lined up in the coming months is the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League, and Ojha would like to make a good impact.

IPL challenge
But first, he is waiting to see which team bids for him in the February Player auction. “I have played for the Deccan Chargers (now disbanded) and the Mumbai Indians in the previous editions. I have fond memories being part of both these teams. I have been part of an IPL-winning team twice and once in the CLT20,” he said.

Asked whether he had any particular team in mind, Ojha said: “I am a professional, so I will be happy playing for any team that selects me. But, since I have played for Mumbai and Hyderabad, I have a soft corner for them. Let’s see which team picks me.”

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