By Karthik Parimal
Very rarely has Pragyan Ojha failed to mesmerise us with his bowling abilities. When Suresh Raina and Dwayne Bravo looked settled and poised to post a mammoth total on the board, the Mumbai Indians (MI) needed a bowler with a calm demeanour, someone like Pragyan Ojha, to stem the run flow and snatch away the advantage from the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Ojha obliged and bowled a spell that left CSK reeling to a point of no return.
Ojha has made it a habit to come up with a splendid performance in his side’s very first match of the Indian Premier League (IPL). He represented the Deccan Chargers (DC) prior to this season, and in three of those previous four seasons, Ojha bowled a spell similar to the one he bowled Wednesday against CSK.
Although his contributions went almost unnoticed on all such occasions, he played a crucial role in tilting the advantage in favour of his side.
Below are his performances during his franchise’s first match in each of the previous editions of the IPL:
This was DC’s first game of the tournament and they were to face the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). KKR were riding high on confidence after they won their previous match against the Royal Challengers of Bangalore (RCB) in emphatic fashion – thanks to Brendon McCullum’s blitzkrieg. After being asked to field, the KKR bowlers looked unstoppable and shot DC out for a paltry score of 110. The target was by no means challenging, but Pragyan Ojha’s spell ensured that DC stayed in contention till the end.
At one stage, KKR were cruising at 68 for three, but two quick strikes by Ojha put them in a precarious situation at 88 for five with two new batsmen at the crease and needing 23 to win from 21 balls. KKR went on to win the game in the final over with five wickets to spare, but Ojha ended with respectable figures of 4-0-18-2.
It was payback time as both these sides met for their first match of the second edition of the IPL. The tables were turned this time around as KKR folded for just 101 and DC made mincemeat of the total in just 13.1 overs. However, one thing remained constant and that was Ojha’s performance with the ball. He sent Aakash Chopra and Laxmi Ratan Shukla packing, but not before suffocating KKR by cutting off their scoring options.
RP Singh’s brilliance overshadowed Ojha’s heroics, but nonetheless it was a fine partnership with the ball between the former and the latter. Ojha’s final figures in that match read 4-0-14-2 and he went on to become the second-highest wicket taker during DC’s victorious campaign that season.
Yet again the draws had decided that DC was scheduled to take on KKR in its first match of IPL3, and yet again it was Ojha - despite being wicketless - ended up as the most economical bowler. KKR at one stage looked down and out at 31 for four, but reconsolidated in a tremendous manner to finish at 161 for four in their allotted quota of 20 overs. Ojha was the only bowler who was treated with respect and who’s bowling KKR failed to capitalise on.
He finished with figures of 4-0-19-0, and albeit being wicketless in the first game, he bagged the Purple Cap that season for being the highest wicket-taker overall with 21 wickets in 16 games.
This was the only season that turned out to be a damp squib for Pragyan Ojha. He was taken to the cleaners by Rajasthan Royals in DC’s first game that IPL and copped miserable figures of 3.5-0-44-0. He also didn’t feature among the leading wicket-takers that season and relinquished the post of being the frontline spinner in the team to Amit Mishra.
A change in franchise and Pragyan Ojha was now slotted to play alongside some big names. With his performance in Mumbai Indians’ first match against CSK, Ojha proved that he belongs to the big stage. Like mentioned, he struck at the right times and didn’t let CSK take advantage of the impetus they initially obtained. He finished with figures of 4-0-17-2 at an economy rate of 4.25 – which is quite splendid by Twenty20 standards.
If Ojha can continue to replicate such performances throughout this IPL, it could augur well for the Mumbai Indians. Moreover, it will send across a strong message on a national level if he could dominate in the presence of seasoned spinner Harbhajan Singh.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)