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Naman Ojha has been in stellar form Down Under during the unofficial Test series between India A and Australia A. In three consecutive innings, he has smashed 219 not out, 101 not out and 110. This run of form may have helped him serve notice of his maturity as a batsman following a successful domestic season, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.
Naman Ojha has achieved the remarkable feat of scoring three consecutive centuries in First-Class cricket during the ongoing India A tour to Australia. The right-handed wicketkeeper batsmen is one of the more talented batsmen in the country, but the presence of other stumpers has meant that he hasn’t been able to rise through the ranks as fast as he would have hoped. However, with scores of 219 not out, 101 not out and 110, Ojha has certainly thrown his hat in the ring and stated that he is in the mix.
Since the rise of MS Dhoni, India’s other wicketkeepers have been pushed into oblivion. They have only been presented an opportunity when Dhoni has taken a breather or has injured himself. Over the years, the favourites in this role have been Dinesh Karthik, Wriddhiman Saha and Parthiv Patel. Saha has been the preferred understudy in Tests and has now moved in the one-day setup. Karthik and Parthiv have been in the limited-overs side, but haven’t established themselves in the long-run. It is actually India’s fortune that they have so many wicketkeeper-batsmen to turn to, with Ojha coming into the list.
In the midst of the wicketkeeping tussle, Ojha too made a brief appearance. During the tour to Zimbabwe in 2010, when India sent a weak side, Ojha made his One-Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 International (T20I) debut. He did not have a big impact and was axed thereafter. The next two seasons were great for him in domestic cricket. In 2010-11, he hit 760 runs in nine matches at an average of 63.33. And the following year, he smashed 861 runs in nine games at 57.40. He was picked for the India A tour to New Zealand in 2012 and then played for India A against West Indies A the next year.
Though Ojha has got the opportunities at the A level, he couldn’t quite make it count until this tour to Australia. This is perhaps the time when he has matured and entered the most productive phase of his career. Last year, during the 2013-14 domestic season, he hit 858 runs at 61.28. During the Indian Premier League (IPL), he batted well for Sunrisers Hyderabad and fitted into an explosive top-order comprising Shikhar Dhawan, Aaron Finch and David Warner. Ojha was easy on the eye, had time on his hands to play his strokes and is one of the clean hitters of the ball.
At the age of 30, some may say that Ojha doesn’t have too much time on his hands to break into the Indian side given the selectors’ traditional preference for youth. But, Saha is 29 and remains on the fringes of the side, waiting to break in at the hint of an opportunity. Stuart Binny recently made a successful Test debut at the age of 30. It may not be too late for him after all!
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