It was time for celebration for 26-year-old Pragyan Ojha. The left-arm spinner became the third fastest Indian bowler along with Subhash Gupte and BS Chandrasekhar to bag 100 Test wickets from 22 Tests.
The left-arm spinner, who moved from Orissa to Hyderabad to make a career in cricket, dismissed last man James Pattinson, caught at slips, to reach the landmark on the second day of the fourth Test against at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium Saturday.
There was a big relief on his face. Off-spinner EAS Prasanna and leg spinner Anil Kumble achieved this distinction in the 20th and 21st Tests respectively. In the process, he became the fifth left-arm spinner from India after Bishen Bedi (266), Vinoo Mankad (162), Ravi Shastri (151) and Dilip Doshi (111) to capture 100 or more wickets.
Ojha also became the second from Hyderabad to take 100 wickets after off-spinner Shivlal Yadav, who had taken 102 wickets from 35 Tests.
Another spinner from Hyderabad, SL Venkatapathy Raju was stranded at 93 when he played his last Test against the Steve Waugh-led Australians in the famous Eden Gardens Test in 2001.
Speaking on Ojha’s success, Raju said that he had always the ability to perform in big matches. “It is always a memorable moment to reach this landmark. I always feel that whenever he flights, he gets that extra turn and bounce. I missed the bus getting stuck at 93 but I feel happy Ojha has done it,” said Raju.
Having made his Test debut against the Sri Lanka at Kanpur in 2009, Ojha has been in and out of the team. Raju feels that like VVS Laxman, Ojha has always had to fight for a place in the eleven. Under the circumstances, it is a laudable achievement,’’ added Raju. Ironically, he played all his Tests in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh even though he toured New Zealand, West Indies, England and Australia but never got the opportunity to play in these countries.
But whenever he played in India , he has become an important member of the India. His best series was against West Indies (2011), New Zealand and England. He and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin hunted in pairs in these series. However, with the success of Ravinder Jadeja in the present series against Australia, he had to take a backseat. Ojha had agonizing moments at the start of series as he was dropped in the Chennai and Hyderabad Tests to accommodate off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. But skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni included him in the Mohali Tests four wickets and at the start of this Test, he was one short of the landmark.
Ojha learnt his cricket from Vijaya Paul clinic in Hyderabad. “He is a hard working cricketer. He is a good learner. He got into bad habits as he was bowling wide of the crease. He has control of the ball and has fine variation. He is willing to flight the ball and deceives the batsman with bounce and turn. I think he should be more consistent. But, may be because of his uncertainty of his place, he is bowling under pressure. He is a class act,’’ concluded Paul.