Zafar Ansari credits Pragyan Ojha, Murali Kartik for his growth as spinner
Zafar Ansari looked up to Surrey teammates Murali Kartik and Pragyan Ohja during his developing as a left-arm spinner.cricket Updated: Nov 15, 2016 22:40 IST
If England left-arm spinner Zafar Ansari turns out to be a game changer in this series, Pragyan Ojha and Murali Kartik should take some of the blame. As a Surrey thoroughbred, the bowler of Pakistan origin spent the early days of his county career sharing the dressing room with Ojha and Kartik. That has left an indelible mark on his bowling.
“I think having Pragyan Ojha for the first four games in 2011 was quite formative. He just came and took wickets in England, which is very difficult as a spinner,” said the 24-year-old here on Tuesday. Ojha played county cricket to learn how to take wickets in unfavourable conditions.
He was a runaway success in those four games — against Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Essex and Derbyshire — taking 24 wickets, with a best of 6/8. “The way he bowls, his action — that was something I watched closely and learnt a lot from,” said Ansari. However, Ojha was later pulled up for a suspect bowling action and underwent corrective measures.
Ansari was grateful to get another early role model. “Kartik was similar. His approach, the way he spent time in the crease, those subtle things that he does — again I watched and tried to learn from that.”
Only two Tests old, Ansari is taking baby steps in his Test career but the presence of strong characters in his life gives him the belief that he can thrive at this level. Former Pakistan spinner, Saqlain Mushtaq, hired as England spin consultant for this series, has provided a shot in the arm. “For someone who has been so successful to come and say ‘I think you are a good bowler, I think you can take wickets at this level’ gives a lot of confidence,” he said.
Saqlain isn’t looking to change his action. “It’s more about the bowling approach, the intent — how you maintain your composure with the batsmen coming at you,” he said.
His earliest influence though was the annual family trip to Pakistan. “In Pakistan we played on concrete in the back garden when I was growing up. People used to bang in the tennis ball, then batting, pace bowling and spin. The other relevant person is Gareth Batty (senior left-arm spinner in the squad). Him in combination with the brief stints with Kartik and Ojha — those are the elements that have come together (for me).”