Vijaya Paul is happy and proud. Two of his two wards — Ambati Rayudu and Pragyan Ojha — have been selected in the Indian team for the South Africa trip. Dashing 28-year-old batsman Rayudu is in the Test and ODI squads, while 27-year-old left-arm spinner Ojha has been included in the Test party.
“It is a great feeling and today I’m a proud man. I always believed that they had the talent to play for the country,” said Paul, the former Hyderabad middle-order batsman.
Known for his deep knowledge of the game, Paul spotted these two when they were young. “Rayudu’s father (Sambasiva) brought him to my nets at Gymkhana when he was only seven, while Ojha was 10 when he came to my camp for the first time. Short and shy, Rayudu showed lot of promise from a young age. He was a very gifted batsman.”
“What I liked in him was as a seven-year-old, he showed a lot of character. Both myself and my late colleague Nagesh Hammond saw tremendous talent in him. Seeing his eagerness to learn the game, we promoted him to the main camp. He showed a lot of guts and was never afraid to play shots. He would play big knocks. He was strong mentally and had a very positive frame of mind,” recalled Paul.
Paul said Ojha was always a very determined cricketer. “I liked his work ethics. He would bowl for hours at a single wicket,” he said. Paul said Ojha’s biggest strength is control. “As a young spinner, he had superb control. He had good variation and thanks to his height, he could extract bounce from the wicket,” he added.