Pragyan Ojha would consider himself lucky to have emerged as a reliable spinner at the fag end of Anil Kumble's career. However, the left-arm orthodox spinner had to wait for a year after Kumble hung his boots in November 2008.
Tagged a “one-day specialist”, the Hyderabadi couldn't have asked for a better platform to shake it off than the ongoing series against Sri Lanka. Once he performed better than Amit Mishra in the team's warm-up game, Ojha was assured of a place through the series.
His performance in the first innings of the third Test proved that the 23-year-old is indeed learning from his past experience. Not only did he register his maiden four-wicket haul in Test cricket, his spell in the morning session on Wednesday was the best by an Indian bowler on the tour so far.
During the spell that read 13-6-19-2, Ojha began with a plan to create pressure on the batsmen. With Mishra also faring a lot better than the opening day, the left-armer started looking to pick wickets. And he was rewarded when he trapped Angelo Mathews and Prasanna Jayawardene in front of the wicket to avoid another huge Sri Lankan first-innings total.
“This is one of the best days for the bowling group, because the way we planned we executed. It has been a very disciplined attack by us,” Ojha said. “We planned it out and we were very strict on that we shouldn't try too many things. We were just sticking to our basics.”
What was heartening to see was the youngster, having picked just one wicket in the first two Tests, is learning to bowl in the Sri Lankan conditions. The moment he saw a wicket that had something in it for bowlers, he capitalised.
“I think in SSC a few good balls had gone for boundaries and, with some deliveries where you could have got some wickets it didn't happen. Here it was doing something for the spinners and for the medium-pacers for the first couple of hours.”
With the experience of Harbhajan Singh missing at the other end, instead of dropping his head, the spinner has risen to the occasion. “When such a situation comes you can take it in a negative way as well as a positive way. I think I took it in a positive way,” Ojha said.