India in Australia 2014-15 November 10, 2014

This is the best phase of my career - Naman Ojha


Naman Ojha, who has been in fine touch with the bat for the last 12 months, said that he was "not surprised" at his inclusion in the 19-member Test squad for the upcoming tour of Australia.

"I am happy that I am a part of the Test squad but I must say that I was hopeful after my performances for India A in Australia and Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy," he said. "I have played first-class cricket for a while but this is the best phase of my career as far as batting is concerned."

Ojha recently scored two hundreds and a double century from four innings for India A in Australia, before making 217 for Central Zone in the Duleep Trophy against North Zone. He carried his fine form to the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy, scoring 61 for Madhya Pradesh against Railways.

But despite these impressive showings, Ojha will only travel with the squad for the first Test, in Brisbane, and will return to India once MS Dhoni recovers from a thumb injury. Despite competing against Wriddhiman Saha for a spot in the XI, Ojha is not at all perturbed by the fact that Saha is way ahead of him in the pecking order.

"I don't want to think about competition and me standing at a threshold of a Test debut. I will try my best to perform in the practice games and take it from there. Obviously, scoring runs in Australia gave me tremendous confidence. I got the self belief that I could score runs in alien conditions against international bowlers The best part was that I was consistent throughout."


It was during a drinks break of the Vijay Hazare Trophy match between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka today that KL Rahul got the news of his selection in the Indian Test team for the tour of Australia but he said he was only concerned about winning the ongoing match at that time.

"We were fielding against Tamil Nadu today when the substitute fielder came at the drinks break to inform me about my selection and also that Robin [Uthappa] and Vinay [Kumar] have been included in the one-day squad against Sri Lanka. It felt nice as we also won by a big margin," Rahul told PTI.

For Rahul, although selection in the Indian team is a big thing, he said he was not under any extra pressure when he played the Duleep Trophy final in the Delhi recently, scoring 185 and 130 against Central zone.

"Frankly speaking, I was not even aware that selectors were present. Also I was more into a zone where I wanted to score a big hundred. On the opposite there was Pankaj [Singh], who has recently played Test match for India, there is Piyush [Chawla], who has played for India and Ishwar [Pandey], who was with the national team. So it was a potent bowling attack.

"Also at the back of my mind, there was one thing. I knew that I have to play without pressure as this was certainly not my last chance to impress the national selectors," the 22-year-old, who has scored 2100 in 27 first-class games at an average of 51.21 with six centuries, said.

Australia will be a completely different ball game, though, and Rahul knows that he will have to prepare well for the tough test ahead. "If I have got results this season, it was because of the hard work put in during off-season with my coach Samuel Jayaraj. Once I am back in Bangalore, I am planning to practise against the wet tennis balls from 18 yards and also with plastic ball on concrete pitches to reduce my reaction time for strokes," Rahul said.

When asked if he was thinking about reducing the weight of his bat, Rahul said: "No I haven't thought about reducing the weight of my bat. I didn't do that when I went to Australia with India A but yes I would use bats which would have the "sweet spot" a bit on the higher side rather than the meat being at the bottom. These are my little ways of preparing for the tour."

Asked if he had ever batted better than in the Duleep Trophy final, Rahul said: "Those two centuries were certainly special as it came on the big stage but I believe I have played better innings' under tougher circumstances for my state Karnataka during Ranji Trophy."