In early 2005, eventual Ranji Trophy champions Railways became the first to get a taste of Pragyan Ojha, who ripped through their top order. His efforts didn't help his side, but the 19-year-old had arrived with a five-wicket haul.
“He is used to strong beginnings,” says longtime state teammate Ibrahim Khaleel, who kept wickets in that match. “He picked six wickets in his U-22 debut too.” His long standing coach at Bhavan's Sriramakrishna Vidyal-aya, Vijay Paul, praises his work ethic. “He’d disturb me in the afternoon, call and make me watch him bowl at a single stump. He bowled so much that I'd ask two ’keepers every day for him."
Hunger for success
For someone who came to Hyderabad from Orissa in search of competitive cricket and stayed for a while with his uncle and aunt and away from parents, the sacrifice has been worth the while.
When he came on to bowl early in the first Test against New Zealand, the kind of adulation usually reserved for VVS Laxm-an, was showered on him. He didn't disappoint. Agreed, Hyderab-ad has never seen such a spin-fri-endly track, even in Ranji Trophy, but the drift into Doug Bracewell and then the expansive turn needs special skills. Dhoni honoured his first innings three-wicket effort by handing him the new ball in the second innings.
“The idea was to stick to the basics and bowl a disciplined line, and leave the rest to the wicket,” Ojha said, after teaming up with R Ashwin. Dismissed as a defensive bowler initially, former India spinner Venkatapathy Raju has made a difference to his approach.
"India has a legacy of great spinners, and as a young spinner I also wanted to get there. And the way Ashwin is bowling, I am confident we can do it together." They form a potent duo and after a great show against West Indies at home late last year, they are making the Kiwis struggle.
At the press meet, Ojha was asked about his role when Harbh-ajan was there and now with Ashwin. He said: “Bhajji has so much experience, we miss him. When Ashwin is there, we communicate a lot.” All the four wickets he has got so far have come from good deliveries. “Initially, he was afraid to give the ball loop. But with time, he understood the virtue of loop," said Paul.
A simple youngster, the India cap is adding some flavour to his life. His team mates say he is fond of cars, that's what he talks a lot about these days. His latest buy is the Ford Endeavour. But the vehicle of success on the pitch will surely be more and more wickets.