Ojha on CAB conflict: ‘We both were right in our own ways’

After months of dilly-dallying, the CAB finally issued a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the spinner last week, paving way for his Hyderabad move.

Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha will play for Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy this season.   -  V.V. Subrahmanyam

There was a big question mark over Pragyan Ojha’s cricketing career until last week. With the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) initially unwilling to release the 31-year-old spinner to play for his home state, Hyderabad, things looked bleak.

After months of dilly-dallying, the CAB finally issued a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the spinner last week, paving way for his Hyderabad move. And now, as he gets ready to start his Ranji Trophy campaign for the home side, Ojha spoke to Sportstar — his first-ever interview of the season — on the road ahead and how he has moved on from the CAB fiasco.

Excerpts…

You are back to the Hyderabad side after a gap of two years. How do you see this ‘homecoming’ after such high drama?

There is a responsibility wherever I play. There is a stature that I have to carry as a cricketer who has played at the highest level. I am focusing hard on improving myself. Every season, my intention is to give my best for the team. I know the results are not in my hands, but definitely I can work hard to achieve that. That’s what I have always believed in.

This season, Hyderabad has got back the services of two of its homeboys — you and Ambati Rayudu. What are your thoughts on the team’s chances this time around?

I think the team has a combination of young and experienced cricketers. When I had shifted from Hyderabad to Bengal, these players were young and less experienced. Now they are more matured, and they know what to do and how to handle match situation. They also have a clear idea about the challenges in first-class cricket. It will be a great season since we have some young guys who are raring to go. Together with senior guys like us, the team has a good combination.

I have no regrets. I had requested the CAB to leave me so that I could play for my parent association in Hyderabad and they were also keen on having me back. We both were right in our own ways. I don’t think there were any conflicts. They wanted to buy some time. I am happy that they finally realised my situation and where I stand.

Despite having a legacy, Hyderabad hasn’t done well in the last few seasons. Now with the seniors back in the side and J. Arun Kumar taking charge as coach, what are the challenges that this side would face in the long tournament?

The challenge is simple: it is about winning the Ranji Trophy. It is about taking each match as it comes. That’s the ultimate target. In a tournament, if your goal is to win the championship, then you need to prepare accordingly. That’s what we are doing at the moment. I have always believed that in cricket, if you are only thinking about individual success, then it is difficult to sustain in the long run. You should always have a goal that pushes you to the maximum. If your goal is not high, then you won’t be improving as a cricketer. Our top-most goal is to win the Ranji Trophy, but for that, we must reach the quarter-finals.

Does this side have a realistic chance of breaking the odds and doing anything big?

Last year, Hyderabad played the quarterfinal. That’s the reality.

Our boys are confident, and we have achieved so much success in the past. As a team, we are looking to make an impact in this edition of the Ranji Trophy. If you doubt your abilities and goal, then I don’t think it is possible to do really well. You have to believe in yourself and the team. There should be 100 per cent faith in whatever you think and whatever you set as a goal. It is also important to figure out if that’s achievable.

The biggest example is how Gujarat won the Ranji Trophy last year. They came with a very young side, with just a few seniors. But in the end, they won the Ranji Trophy. So nothing is impossible. Another thing is that the cricketers of the young generation are always hungry for more; everyone wants to do well.

Hyderabad Ranji team's captain Ambati Rayudu (left) with left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and team-mates at a training session in Uppal. The first Ranji Trophy match between Hyderabad and Maharashtra was abandoned without a ball being bowled.   -  V.V. Subrahmanyam

 

On the personal front, it has not been a smooth start to the season. After the high drama in Bengal, you lost your grandfather a few days back. So when you take the field for Hyderabad again, how do you plan to keep your focus?

Whenever I am at home, I switch off from cricket. Similarly, whenever I am on the field, I keep my personal life behind. I have played for years to understand what it takes to deliver. I agree that it will not be as easy as we speak, but that’s how life is. Life is not always fair to you. So whatever is the situation, you have to deal with it and play.

So do you say that life has been unfair to you in the last few months?

I have no regrets. I had requested the CAB to leave me so that I could play for my parent association in Hyderabad and they were also keen on having me back. We both were right in our own ways. I don’t think there were any conflicts. They wanted to buy some time. I am happy that they finally realised my situation and where I stand. At the same time, as a professional, it is not good to complain when the situation is not favouring you. You have to work hard and do whatever you should be doing on the field. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you succeed, but that should not have an impact on the effort and the hard work. I will never give up.

The biggest inspiration for me is Ashish Nehra. The way he came back to the national side has been phenomenal. It is not about age, it is about how you play and perform. Look at Nehra’s career graph, it is tremendous. As a colleague, I feel his story is very inspiring. He has, in a way, inspired me to put in that extra effort.

But then, do you think that the CAB could have handled the issue differently?

That’s something we will keep on talking about and there won’t be any outcome. I don’t want to get into it. I want to focus on the season. I exactly don’t know how to talk about it. They (CAB) wanted me to play for Bengal because they thought I will be more important in the spin department this time. At the same time, personal problems forced me to stay back and play for Hyderabad. So, it is difficult to judge. I request to not judge anything because the situation was not in anyone’s control.

You talk about staying positive and extending your career. At 31, do you really feel that a comeback to the national side is possible?

The biggest inspiration for me is Ashish Nehra. The way he came back to the national side has been phenomenal. It is not about age, it is about how you play and perform. Look at Nehra’s career graph, it is tremendous. As a colleague, I feel his story is very inspiring. He has, in a way, inspired me to put in that extra effort.

As we talk, Nehra has officially announced his retirement from international cricket. Being an old friend, what are your thoughts?

A person like him, who has suffered so many injuries, has never given up. Even as Nehra quits, there are so many things to learn from him and feel inspired. For me, he has always been a great motivator.