England vs India 2014 - Naman Ojha's slice of luck | gocricket.com
 

Naman Ojha's slice of luck

2 Aug 2014, 1221 hrs IST,  ,  gocricket.com  
Naman Ojha's slice of luck
© Getty Images
Naman Ojha scored 430 runs for India A on the recent tour to Australia.
When the news of Naman Ojha being called up as the back-up wicket-keeper in the Indian squad touring England came, a lot of people, including perhaps the 31-year-old, would have been surprised.

"I am really happy and will do my best," said Ojha when gocricket.com called him up when he was included after Wriddhiman Saha picked up an injury. A man of few words, the Madhya Pradesh star got the news through an e-mail from BCCI Secretary Sanjay Patil. It is not often that the Indian Test set-up takes someone on board so late in one's career. Ojha was part of the depleted Indian squad that had toured Zimbabwe in 2010. He played his only ODI against Sri Lanka.

Since that series, Ojha remained out of favour with Saha pipping him as India's back-up opener. Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel were also ahead in the pecking order. But he focused on being a run machine in the domestic circuit.

When this writer met the right-handed in Delhi during the Ranji season last year, he did not sound too confident about the prospects of an India call-up. An aggressive player by nature, Ojha had scored his first double hundred in over six years. Still he was not a happy camper since Madhya Pradesh had conceded three points to the home team. "I score for the team and if it does not help the side, there is no use," he said.

He is the kind of player who looks for results all the time. He has been toiling hard in the domestic circuit since the time he made his first-class debut in 2000-01. But it was not until the 2005-06 season that Ojha made a big impression with 581 runs in eight first class matches at an average of 44.69.

He performed consistently in the following seasons and was picked up by Rajasthan Royals in the 2009 edition of IPL and he smashed a half-century in his second game. Despite failing to establish himself in the side, Ojha played some valuable knocks during the 2010 season and his consistency was rewarded and he was selected in a second-string Indian team for a tri-series in Zimbabwe.

Ojha returned to the domestic circuit where he piled on the runs for Madhya Pradesh. In 2011-12, he scored 860 runs and struck four centuries as Madhya Pradesh just failed to make it to the knock-out stage. He began the 2012-13 season well, scoring a century and his career's second double ton to finish with impressive tally of 835 runs at an average of nearly 70.

In IPL 2014, he again impressed with his hitting prowess for Sunrisers Hyderabad with 232 runs at a strike rate of 144 and a ticket to Australia with India A was sealed. Another stellar performance with 430 runs in just three innings followed and as he returned home after the first-class leg of the tour, he would not have fathomed what was in store for him. For, Ojha was never quite in the reckoning to be India's second wicket-keeper's but opportunity knocks when you least expect it.

Looking back at 2010, Ojha said he had committed a lot of mistakes, something which he did not like to delve much into, but stressed that he is a much improved player now. He sought help from Praveen Amre, known as Robin Uthappa's personal coach. Ojha talks about the meeting as a key point and also added that his interactions with VVS Laxman at SRH helped him a great deal.

It is highly unlikely that Ojha will get a game in Tests, but with ODI team for the England tour yet to be announced, his inclusion now does give him an outside chance of making into the ODI squad.

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