Ojha eyes Test berth with domestic performances

Looking back fondly at his Test debut for India last year when he was selected for one match, Naman Ojha has set his sights firmly on a more permanent berth as a wicketkeeper in India's Test team.

Naman Ojha has scored 67 runs in six innings in the IPL this season, with two not outs.   -  K. V. S. Giri

It’s been well over 18 months since Mahendra Singh Dhoni vacated his place behind the wickets from Test matches. Still, the position of India’s wicketkeeper is wide open. Wriddhiman Saha surely leads the race, but the likes of Naman Ojha, Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik have continued to knock on the doors of the selectors.

With India set to play more than a dozen Test matches in the coming season, the spotlight is back on the wicketkeepers in the white flannels. Ojha, who made his debut in India’s last Test match, doesn’t waste a moment in making a case for himself.

“It was very, very special, to make my debut last August (against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground, Colombo). Wonderful feeling it was. I have scored so many runs in the Ranji Trophy, in the Duleep Trophy, for India A. I had, in fact, scored more runs than most batsmen, so it was overwhelming to get the India cap at last, after spending 15 seasons in domestic cricket,” Ojha told Sportstar.

“I just hope I will get a chance again since I did well in that series. (Amit) Mishra and I had a good partnership in that Test match. I think whether the selectors are looking for a batsman or a wicketkeeper, I hope I am considered and selected.”

Consistent performer

Ojha has been a consistent performer in domestic cricket, both in front of and behind the wickets. He has carried that form into the Indian Premier League as well, having emerged as a key member of the Sunrisers Hyderabad. Even though he hasn’t matched the exploits of some of his competitors for the Test wicketkeeper’s slot, Ojha has been impressive for the team that has roared to the second position in the points table.

Ojha, however, feels IPL performances should not have any bearing over selecting India’s squad for the gruelling Test season ahead. “You can test a player’s form, not technique, from the IPL. You can see from the nets how the ball is coming on to the bat or whether a ’keeper is collecting the ball smoothly. You cannot even judge temperament since both the formats require different temperaments,” he said.

Sunrisers Hyderabad, after making it to the Playoffs in its debut season in 2013, is set to make the cut again this year. With the likes of captain David Warner and opener Shikhar Dhawan in red-hot form, the Hyderabad outfit has emerged as one of the teams to beat this season.

Ask him what has worked for the team, and Ojha responds promptly. "It’s the ability to win crunch moments. More importantly, ours is one team that has retained its core for the last three-four years. That is very important. If the core is intact and strong, the team is bound to do well. I just hope we continue the same form," he said.

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