Pragyan Ojha April 2, 2013

'You become more responsible after you get married'

Did you know Pragyan Ojha speaks funny Telugu, collects Tendulkar memorabilia, and sleeps on the side of the bed facing the door?

Of your 100 Test victims, whose wickets do you consider most important?
There are two I enjoyed the most. Getting Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene caught at slip with a classical left-arm spinner's delivery [in the second innings at P Sara in 2010] is one of my favourites, especially since Jayawardene is a such a good player of spin. The other was bowling England captain Alastair Cook in Ahmedabad. England were following on but Cook had stayed resolute, so to get past his defence was to get a very important wicket, keeping in mind the state of play.

Tell us more about the time when VVS Laxman shouted at you while he marshalled the tail in a thrilling chase against Australia in Mohali.
The situation was tight and he explained to me that anyone would have gotten upset since it was such a close game. That after putting so much effort, if we had done something silly and lost the match, nothing could have been worse. I have never seen Laxman bhai angry.

What was the positive for you that came from that situation?
When you play like that and help your team win a Test match, it is always amazing. The kind of confidence you derive from defeating a team like Australia is huge, and such situations help you grow as a player.

You once opened the innings and scored a century for your school.
Thanks to my coach [Vijay Paul], who was a batsman himself, and wanted me to focus on my batting. I am still trying to make sure I get some runs each time I go to bat.

Have you ever spoken to Bishan Singh Bedi about the art of left-arm spin?
I haven't spoken to him one-on-one, but recently at a private function in Chennai, he told me to work hard and focus on my game and that I had a long way to go. It was great advice from a legend like him.

Is there an incident that motivated you to do well?
There is one incident I will never forget. I was playing for Hyderabad Under-17 against Andhra Pradesh at the Waterworks ground, which is on the outskirts of the city. I had not been getting wickets but nobody informed me that I hadn't been selected for the match. I travelled some 40km to get to the ground. I was putting my shoes on when the coach asked me if I had not read the newspaper. I told him how would I read the paper at six in the morning when all I had done was wake up and rush out to play. I was really upset that I hadn't been picked, and the worst part was that people told me since I had come that far, why didn't I stay back and have food. That really hurt me. That was one of the turning points of my life.

What is the advantage of being a married sportsman?
The most important is that you become more responsible. You are no more a boy, you are a man, and those things reflect in your game. There is more stability and you do not take decisions in haste. You give them more time.

On a cricket field what is the tightest spot you have found yourself in?
Laxman bhai has given always given me a lot of advice. One incident I can never forget is when I was 18 and playing my second Ranji season. We were playing Maharashtra [in Karad] in 2006-07. A day before the match, Laxman bhai told me, "You have to win this game for Hyderabad. I don't know how or what you can do but you have to win the game." I was shocked because I was very young, but my captain had told me he had a lot of confidence in me. I ended up taking six wickets. [The match was a draw and Hyderabad earned two points]. I could not believe that I had really done so well. From that day I started to believe more in my ability.

Do you have a unique cricket souvenir?
I have the impression of Sachin paaji's right palm in Plaster of Paris, which I have framed and will hang in my new house, which is under construction.

Did you move from Odisha to Hyderabad exclusively for your cricket?
I was born in Bhubaneshwar but I moved because my parents felt Hyderabad had better resources and opportunities in terms of education. So, no, I did not move for cricket.

Your Hyderabad team-mates say you speak "funny" Telugu.
Thanks to my driver, who does not understand any language other than Telugu, I have had to learn it. I have become much more fluent in it now.

Who has hit the longest six off your bowling?
Albie Morkel hit me almost out of Chepauk in the first IPL, in 2008.

What is this story about you wanting to sleep on one side the bed whenever you had to share a hotel room with a team-mate?
Right from childhood, I have slept on the side of the bed near the door. Even my wife is amused about that habit. I do have a couple of superstitions: I carry a picture of Siddhivinayak [Hindu deity] in my bag, and I never forget to call my parents and my coach before a match.

What interests do you have outside of cricket?
I had to always take permission from my parents before buying motorbikes in the past. Recently I bought a Harley Davidson, during the England Test series. It is fun driving the bike on highways early in the morning.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo