IND vs ENG: One doesn’t expect turning tracks in SENA countries - Pragyan Ojha

Former India spinner Ojha outlines why India was right in preparing a rank turner at the refurbished Motera.

Axar Patel and Virat Kohli celebrate during the second day's play of the third India-England Test in Ahmedabad. Spinners accounted for 17 wickets on Day Two. - BCCI

Having played all his 24 Tests in the subcontinent, Pragyan Ojha understands the magic of spin science on such wickets. After India’s 10-wicket victory over England in the day-night Test at the refurbished Motera on the second day, he reminded that there was a reason why the ‘home’ and ‘away’ format exists.

The former left-arm spinner said India was right in preparing a rank turner. Seventeen wickets fell for 176 runs on Day Two and the pink-ball fixture finished with four spinners in the spotlight — R. Ashwin (7 wickets), Axar Patel (11 wickets), Jack Leach (4 wickets) and Joe Root (five wickets). “India was smarter than the opponent in picking three spinners. England fell short by one spinner. If Root can pick five wickets, imagine what Dom Bess could do,” Ojha told Sportstar.

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“Why [do] we call a five-day game a Test match? It is because you have to be tested as a player. When you go abroad, you are tested in seaming conditions. Similarly, when you come to the sub-continent you face different kinds of challenges. You are constantly being tested.

“We have the home and away format because the team playing at home should play to their advantage. You don’t expect turning tracks in SENA countries. That is not their strength. They play to their strength and we play to ours, and that’s when you find champion players. That is why Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Ravi Ashwin are rated so high because they have performed everywhere,” reasoned Ojha who has 113 Test wickets under his belt.

‘Axar, hitting the right lengths’

Ojha feels Axar’s consistency and accuracy earned him the Test call-up. “He [Axar] has been performing consistently well in the IPL. He has been touring with the India A side. So when he was rewarded, he was ready and he bowled brilliantly in these sub-continent pitches. You also have to hit the right areas and bowl the right lengths and that’s what Axar did,” he said, adding that Ashwin’s contribution with the bat should not be forgotten. “Ashwin, need I say more? He got 400 in 77 games, he is not only phenomenal with the ball but also the bat.”

Ashwin scored a hundred in the second Test in Chennai.

Pragyan Ojha took 113 wickets in Tests for India. - AP   -  AP

 

Healthy competition

Left-arm spinner Axar registered his third consecutive five-for and that too, only in his second Test. Ojha highlighted the importance of left-armers. “We always had left-arm spinners. Every decade we had one; right from Bishan [Singh Bedi] paji, and also before him.

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“I think our team is very well-balanced and we have a healthy competition going on. Ravindra Jadeja will have a healthy competition with Axar. Then you have the pool of fast bowlers competing for a spot in the side. It is a great sign for the team that is aiming to be the No. 1 Test team in the world.”

Day-night Test important

There has been a lot of buzz around the nature of pink ball and the seriousness of Test cricket under floodlights.

Ojha backed the new format. “Every generation had to adapt to the new situation and condition. This is the need of the hour. And also, we have to keep in mind the most important stakeholder – the fans. They have to be engaged. If the administrators or the think tank feel this can attract the fans, then so be it. We should be open to changes and that’s how anything grows. If 30 years ago somebody would have spoken of T20 cricket and the kind of shots one can play there, nobody would have accepted [it].”

India has taken a 2-1 lead in the four-match Test series with the final fixture set to begin from March 4 in Ahmedabad.