x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Ojha wants to be more than answer to a trivia question

He may be Muralitharan's 8ooth Test victim but Ojha, 24, wants to be a match-winner and is building a reputation against some of the best players of spin in Sri Lanka.

Pragyan Ojha, second from right, celebrates the dismissal of Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews.
Pragyan Ojha, second from right, celebrates the dismissal of Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews.

Pragyan Ojha is just taking his first tentative steps in international cricket and it looks like a bright future beckons. The left-arm spinner, who turns 24 next month, is building a reputation against some of the best players of spin in Sri Lanka and has been India's standout bowler in the ongoing third Test, picking up his first four-wicket haul yesterday.

He should surely add many more achievements to that feat in the coming years, given his talent. Yet, in cricket lore and among trivia enthusiasts, Ojha will forever be Muttiah Muralitharan's 800th Test victim. Whatever the future brings, he will always be a part of that moment, one of the most memorable in cricket history, and remembered long after he has bowled the last of his looping deliveries.

Ojha is not the first on the list of cricketers remembered more for being part of someone else's big moment. Chetan Sharma was the first bowler to get a hat-trick in a World Cup, but his legacy is being clobbered by Javed Miandad for a last-ball six in the Austral-Asia Cup final in Sharjah in 1986. That is the irony of fate and Ojha has been a victim of it a few times already. The best bowler of the Indian Premier League (IPL) earlier this year, he failed to figure in India's squad for the following World Twenty20. Making his Test debut against Sri Lanka last year, he took nine wickets at 28.66 in two Tests, but was dropped for the next series in Bangladesh.

Ojha has, however, taken every setback in his stride and worked harder on his return. Not blessed with the natural abilities of a Harbhajan Singh or Murali, he has mastered the basics of line and length, and added an enticing loop to his trajectory. "One thing is clear in life, there will be ups and downs," he said in a recent interview. "One needs to know how to handle things. I'm confident and happy with my progress. Everyday I want to learn new things and want to continue bowling well.

"I want to be a match-winning bowler. There are many bowlers in this country, but there are only a few match winners. I want to be like someone who has won the trust of his captain and his teammates. If my captain throws the ball towards me, he should have the confidence that Ojha can win the match for his side." The bowler still has some way to go before he can join the leagues of match winners, but his performances on this Sri Lanka tour will certainly help in gaining the confidence of MS Dhoni, the captain. He will never be a showman like Harbhajan, but he can be a consistent performer, much in the manner of Sri Lanka's Thilan Samaraweera.

Missing out on the run-feasts in the first two Tests, Samaraweera scored a doughty, unbeaten 137 and his century could prove to be one of the most important individual contributions of the game. arizvi@thenational.ae Also: Sehwag leads India's charge, scoreboard