When India’s leading spinner Pragyan Ojha wants some good advice, he speaks to himself. Such a talk he had on Thursday helped him bowl better on Friday (December 7), the third day of the third Test at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
“I realised that I was focussing too much on taking wickets; in the process I gave away runs. The wicket wasn’t doing much yesterday, but today it was a different story,” said Ojha. “At the end of play yesterday, I talked to myself and decided to change my strategy and focus on cutting down the runs. I don’t like to bowl restrictively, but I realised that was what was needed here.”
Asked then if Joe Dawes, India’s bowling coach, had no inputs into the spinners’ performances, Ojha was quick to give the Australian credit, even if in a roundabout way. “Joe is good enough. He knows the angles and he has a good overview,” he said, in that marvellous way the officials and the players have been supporting one another publicly. In an interview to a website, Dawes had said that the Indian bowlers are on the right track and that Zaheer Khan had a beautiful wrist and was one of the six best bowlers in the world.
When Ojha is not talking to himself, however, he relies on his coaches from Hyderabad, Sunil Joshi, Venkatapathi Raju and Vijay Paul.
As spin begins to come into its own in the Test, Ojha is aware that the onus will be on R Ashwin and himself to play the key role in the fourth innings. That is, assuming that India’s batsmen can set England a big enough target. Ojha is confident of the batsmen, though. “I am sure our guys will bat well,” he said, adding that Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag are legends.
Reacting to criticism that he and Ashwin bowled the wrong pace in the Mumbai Test which India lost, he pointed out that you cannot change your style in the middle of a Test series. “You can’t ask a bowler who usually bowls at 80 or 82 kmph to suddenly bowl at 100 kmph,” he said.
Ojha, the day’s most successful bowler with three wickets, felt that bowling round the wicket to Alastair Cook was pointless because the left-hander simply swept him. When India took the new ball in the morning, there was little in it for the medium pacers, but the change helped the spinners as there was more bounce for them.