Striving to be a complete cricketer

Pragyan Ojha…“ My philosophy is pretty simple: work hard and give your best when you get the opportunity.”-K.R. DEEPAK

“I always love to contribute to the team’s performance and in the process if I achieve something big in terms of records, it’s only a bonus. For me there is no better feeling than to be a member of a winning team,” says Pragyan Ojha in a chat with V.V. Subrahmanyam.

He was the Man of the Match in Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th and final Test, against the West Indies in Mumbai in November 2013. But four months later, Pragyan Ojha, for no fault of his, was not picked to play on India’s tour of South Africa and did not figure at all in the squad to New Zealand. Quite surprisingly, the 27-year-old left-arm spinner from Hyderabad is yet to play a Test abroad.

“Well, it was a special Test (against the West Indies in Mumbai). A Man of the Match performance, with a 10-wicket haul, is something I will cherish forever, given that it was Sachin paaji’s farewell Test. A very emotional match for everyone of us. But it is time to look ahead, leave the past,” says Ojha in an exclusive interview to Sportstar, even as he prepares for the demanding season ahead that includes the high-profile Indian Premier League.

“I am very keen to have the desired preparations ahead of the season and that is why I am playing for my employers BPCL in the Mumbai league now,” Ojha points out.

“Yes, I am disappointed (that I am not in the Indian team), but there is no point in giving too much thought to the negatives. I think the onus is on me to perform consistently each time I am given the chance to play for the country. Lots of cricket is round the corner for the Indian team,” the soft-spoken left-arm spinner remarks.

“I am also working on two other key areas — fielding and batting. It is imperative to be good in all three departments. It is always a better option to be a complete cricketer,” Ojha says to a query.

Is he working with any former player now to improve his game?

“Yes, whenever Shivlal (Yadav) Sir is in Hyderabad or Raju Bhai (Venkatapathi Raju) is in the city, I talk to them. And there is Laxman (V. V. S.), always ready to help me. I am very lucky to have these internationals around whenever I am looking for some sort of help,” Ojha says.

Significantly, Ojha’s positive frame of mind is also the result of Laxman’s influence. “Yes, he always tells me to be tough. ‘Not every time things will go your way, just concentrate on your game’, he keeps reminding me,” he says.

How does he motivate himself, especially whenever he is ignored by the selectors?

Accolades from the master... Pragyan Ojha is congratulated by Sachin Tendulkar on taking five wickets in the Second Test against the West Indies at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.-K.R. DEEPAK

“These things are not new to me, honestly. When you are playing for your country, these things are common. A lot of greats too have gone through such phases. So, my philosophy is pretty simple: work hard and give your best when you get the opportunity,” says Ojha.

How significant is the IPL ahead of the international season?

“This is the most popular T20 event, not just in India but across the world. It’s widely followed. Definitely, I am not thinking too much about coming up with special performances in the IPL. I will go into this edition well prepared, just as I had on earlier occasions. Decent performances even in an IPL are a great morale-booster for any cricketer,” explains Ojha, who has been a member of two victorious teams in the IPL, Deccan Chargers (2009) and Mumbai Indians (2013).

Has he set any goals for himself?

“Honestly, I have never thought of any personal milestones. I always love to contribute to the team’s performance and in the process if I achieve something big in terms of records, it’s only a bonus. For me, there is no better feeling than to be a member of a winning team.”

On forming a good combination with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, Ojha is of the view that it is primarily because both of them have played a lot of cricket since their age-group days and have known each other well. “It is always better to bowl with someone from the other end who knows your game better. The sense of understanding and plotting the dismissals of batsmen will be much better,” he points out.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity of playing with Ashwin in a Test abroad. That is a huge challenge,” he says.

Ojha also says that he always makes it a point to talk to his coach Vijaya Paul (Hyderabad) before any major series or a season.

On his most defining moment so far, Ojha says: “When I got the Test cap from Tendulkar. That will be the most special moment, and the fact that I took 10 wickets in his last Test is equally memorable. You can’t ask for anything better.

“I am fortunate to have parents who understand the highs and lows a sportsperson goes through. So is my wife Karabee, who is caring and helps me keep my spirit always high.”