Posted On Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 10:10:19 AM
The Indian players celebrate after Pragyan Ojha (third left) dismisses England’s Kevin Pietersen during the first Test at Motera in Ahmedabad yesterday. Ojha picked up another five-wicket haul
The Indian team was walking towards the dressing room after the end of a fairly satisfying third day’s play when a group of ball boys approached them for autographs and pictures. Virat Kohli, Harbhajan Singh, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were all mobbed.
The hero of the day, Pragyan Ojha, who took five wickets for 45 runs in 22.2 overs to make England followon, quietly walked past this bunch. He has 80 wickets from just 16 Tests so far and yet he doesn’t get the respect to match those stats. But that has been the story of the left-arm spinner’s career.
While the focus has been on the feistier R Ashwin and his ability to develop new deliveries and the whole saga surrounding Harbhajan Singh’s inclusion and exclusion in the team for the last year or so, Ojha has quietly gone about adding wickets to his kitty. Yesterday, he was asked about the ‘respect’ bit and his answer was in character: “Actually, I don’t think about all those things.
My job is here to play and perform and as long as my team is winning I don’t care about other things. Other things will take care of itself, the priority is India winning.” Yesterday’s performance might help in raising his stature. Coming into the third day, England were 41 for 3 and Ojha had already removed Jimmy Anderson.
But the battle that awaited him was with Kevin Pietersen, who has had his problems with left-arm spinners in the past, and Ojha didn’t take too long to win it. Pietersen survived a few lbw appeals and was looking ill at ease when Ojha made one pitch on the middle and hold its line.
Pietersen was neither forward nor back as he awkwardly pushed his bat forward. The ball curved past the bat to uproot the middle stump. Later, Ojha described the feeling, “I think he’s a very good batsman, you know…the amount of runs he scored. It’s a great thing that I have got his wicket.
As far as picking him again in the series is concerned, I think I shouldn’t be taking things easy in this series. He’s a very good batsman and he has got lot of experience.”
The next ball gave Ojha his third scalp and also typified the panic in the English ranks. Ian Bell had a brain freeze when he charged at the first ball he faced only to find that he wasn’t close to the pitch of the ball.
The ball ballooned off the bottom edge of the bat towards Sachin Tendulkar at longoff. Tim Bresnan was done in with ball that bounced to take the shoulder of the bat enroute to gully and Matt Prior was bowled and England were left 330 short of India’s first innings score of 521. Ojha’s figures read 22.2-8.45-5.
There actually is nothing special about his bowling. He doesn’t give ball the flight that Bishan Singh Bedi will be proud of. He doesn’t have the sharp arm-ball as Maninder Singh did or the drift that a young Ravi Shastri had.
He has always been seen as a bowler who can play the restrictive role and someone who could bowl according to the captain’s plan when he needs to stop the flow of runs.
And he fits completely with the ways of Dhoni, who likes his bowlers to bowl to his fields and remain very patient so that he can slowly create the pressure. When Anil Kumble retired and Harbhajan Singh started to struggle, no one actually spoke of Ojha as the man who could lead the Indian spin attack.
While the clamour was over finding the replacement for Kumble, which oscillated between Amit Mishra and Piyush Chawla, the more versatile Ashwin was ear-marked to play the lead spinner.
Ojha meanwhile lurked and hunted in the background. He has been lucky at one level to play all his 17 Test matches in the sub-continent and against teams like West Indies, New Zealand and now England who traditionally are poor players of spin. But that’s not his fault. His job in this match is not complete.
England have all ten wickets in hands and as Ojha said the pitch is slowing down. And there still are two days left. Can England save the match or even more unlikely make.
► The first session would be crucial. It will set the tone for the rest of the game. We need to get quick wickets
- Pragyan Ojha on India's chances of winning the first test