Makeshift India wicketkeeper Naman Ojha believes watching Australian Brad Haddin closely should help him stay sharp when he keeps wicket to the spinners in the third Test against Sri Lanka starting on Friday.
Ojha, 32, will make his Test debut, having been drafted in after Wriddhiman Saha was ruled out of the series decider at Colombo's Sinhalese Sports Club ground because of a hamstring injury. Ojha played a One-day International and two Twenty20 Internationals on the 2010 Zimbabwe tour, but has since not been considered for India duty.
He has been the standby from Saha, who was understudy until Mahendra Singh Dhoni retired from Tests in Australia early this year. Ojha admitted on Wednesday that there was some pressure to impress straightaway, but said he was ready for the challenge of both keeping at a ground where spinners could play an important role and his batting contribution could also be crucial.
His biggest test will be to keep against Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra on a ground where Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath took 14 wickets to beat Pakistan in August 2014, in the last Test played at the venue.
"I played only One-day and was dropped again. I went to the domestic circuit and worked. I kept telling myself I need to work hard to play well again and score runs and runs and runs, that’s it. I needed to keep myself fit so when the next chance came I could make sure I make the most of it,” he said after practice at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground.
Ojha, who arrives having played in the home series for India A added, "There is a little bit pressure (to perform well) but I am not thinking about that. I have waited very long, so I want to just enjoy my game and not think about anything."
Ojha’s idols are both Australians. "I love to watch Adam Gilchrist because he is a very attacking batsman and tremendous wicketkeeper. In Indian or sub-continental conditions, it is difficult to keep to spinners, so I am working hard on that. The ball might turn and bounce, and you never know which one will turn or bounce. So, you just need to work hard."
He said former India keeper Saba Karim, one of the two selectors who are in Sri Lanka, had spoken about how to keep against spinners. "He told me that against spinners open your hands a bit (as the ball arrives)."
Haddin is one of the keepers Ojha has closely watched. "I was watching Brad Haddin in the first Ashes Test, how he was keeping to spinners, and how well he was moving for the fast bowlers. He is very senior, so I was watching how he kept."
Ojha has scored over 7,000 runs in first-class cricket, averaging under 44 with 19 centuries.
Karun Nair, the 23-year-old Karnataka batsman, has also arrived as a cover ahead of the final Test.