Having been left out of the England tour,Pragyan Ojha was in the middle of an extended off-season when he received a call from former Indian captain Anil Kumble. A better part of the last month had been spent warming the bench in the Caribbean,with Amit Mishra getting the nod ahead of him at Jamaica,the only Test where India went in with two spinners.
But Kumble had an interesting and pleasant proposition on hand,one which would provide the out-of-favour Hyderabadi left-arm spinner an escape from boredom as well as a chance to enhance his credentials. Not surprisingly,Ojha jumped on the offer,agreeing to play for Surrey in the County Championships and the CB40 one-day competition during the English summer.
(Surrey coach) Alec Stewart was looking for an Indian spinner and had a word with Kumble,who recommended my name. It being the off-season here,there was no cricket happening,so it was a great thing to happen for me. Then I sought the BCCIs permission and Im thankful to them for allowing me this opportunity, says Ojha,who last featured in national colours during the third Test against New Zealand at Nagpur in November.
It will be a great challenge for me,but a grand opportunity to showcase my talent. I will be playing for a new team and against new opponents. Adapting to conditions will be the key there,but Im really excited, Ojha adds. Interestingly,the 24-year-old will be third Indian spinner after Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to have a stint at The Oval during the last decade.
While Ojha wants to concentrate on putting his best foot forward for Surrey for now,the likes of Piyush Chawla,who played for Sussex,and Zaheer Khan before him have set precedents of making national recalls through impressive performances in county cricket.
The wickets dont help the spinners much. Being an overseas player will mean a lot will be expected for sure. I will just try to stick to my basics. I have to tell my mind that I wont be getting pitches like I get back home. Adapting as quickly as possible to all these factors will be crucial, says Ojha,who has played 11 Tests for India.
Having agreed to the Surrey offer,Ojha has now applied for his visa and is hoping to get it soon before he sets off for his English sojourn. He insists that there is no substitute for match-practice and is looking forward to make the most of his maiden county stint.
My priority will always be to get my place back in the team. Im hopeful but at the moment doing well for Surrey is my main prerogative, Ojha says.