Pragyan Ojha on evolution of T20s in India

“I had grown up watching Test and one day cricket. Those were imprinted on my mind,” recalled Pragyan Ojha, one of the pioneers in the game’s shortest version. “It took time to understand what the demands of the latest form were.”

So just as every cricketer now aspires to ascend to the IPL, Ojha’s rise was smooth.   -  V.V. Subrahmanyam

It was 2008 and T20 cricket was largely unknown. The opening edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which captured the imagination of cricket buffs worldwide, was still to happen. For the first time, a south zone championship was held at Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy stadium in Visakhapatnam, where the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament’s zonal event is now under way.

“I had grown up watching Test and one day cricket. Those were imprinted on my mind,” recalled Pragyan Ojha, one of the pioneers in the game’s shortest version. “It took time to understand what the demands of the latest form were.”

Among the fastest to adapt to its peculiarities, the left-arm spinner knew batsmen would get about two to three overs to make their presence felt. “They would obviously want to get runs as fast as possible and therein lay the challenge of not just containment.”

“However, well we bowled, there was no guarantee of a dot ball or a wicket. So field placement was of paramount importance,” the seasoned tweaker said. With everyone out to hit him or any bowler, it became necessary to think ahead of the batsmen, who in turn would be hoping to do the same against the bowlers as well.

“After the initial excitement and with no idea on how to approach things, it took a couple of games to understand and evolve in the latest form,” said Ojha, who did reasonably well at Vizag, as he had earlier done for India A against the visiting South African A squad that included Hashim Amla and Ashwell Prince.

So just as every cricketer now aspires to ascend to the IPL, Ojha’s rise was smooth. “There was a great support system in the (now defunct) Deccan Chargers squad. Gilly (Adam Gilchrist) trusted me a lot. Robin Singh had a lot of knowledge about white ball cricket. When legends I looked up to such as V.V.S. Laxman, Gilly, Andrew Symonds and Herschelle Gibbs discussed cricket in the dressing room with a budding player like me, it was a great boost for my confidence,” Ojha reminisced.

“Getting Robin Uthappa out at Vizag was most pleasing. In the IPL, beating M.S. Dhoni with my flight, pace or line and length will remain my treasured memories,” added Ojha, who had a fine run, even if the Chargers finished down below.