The Cricket Association of Bengal [CAB] has turned down left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha's request for a transfer to Hyderabad ahead of the 2017-18 domestic season. Sourav Ganguly, the CAB president, said Bengal need Ojha to play for them, as the side finds itself in Group D for this season's Ranji Trophy.
"Ojha will be playing for us. We have decided not to give him the NOC (no-objection certificate)," Ganguly told reporters in Kolkata on Wednesday. "'When Hyderabad were playing in the lower division, we had given him the opportunity to play for us. Now we need him, so he will have to play for us." Ojha couldn't be reached for a comment.
Ojha, 30, left Hyderabad to become Bengal's professional recruit before the 2015-16 domestic season. At the time, Hyderabad were languishing in Group C, the bottom-most rung of the Ranji Trophy, and Ojha's decision to switch teams was to ensure he had the opportunity to compete with the best sides in the circuit.
Ojha had a bumper start as Bengal's lead spinner in the 2015-16 season, with 36 wickets in nine Ranji Trophy games at an average of 24.36; he was the team's joint-highest wicket-taker with Ashok Dinda that season. Ojha, however, couldn't reprise that performance in the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy: he took 10 wickets from six matches. There were also reports of a spat between Ojha and Dinda during the season.
Ojha's reason for wanting to move back to Hyderabad was no different from the one that prompted him to leave the team in the first place. By virtue of their quarter-final finish in the Ranji Trophy last season, Hyderabad are clubbed with the stronger teams in Group A. Bengal, meanwhile, are in Group D, alongside Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Vidarbha, Services, Goa and Chhattisgarh.
"We are back in the Elite group and [I] look forward to do well by giving that extra bit as an experienced cricketer," Ojha had told PTI last month. "I want to do well and even contribute with the bat and be one of the main members of the team. We have a few youngsters who have been doing well."
Ojha also told PTI that his decision to move back to Hyderabad had nothing to do with the CAB. "I had a cordial relation with everyone. CAB always allowed me to play the kind of cricket I wanted. It's important to have that space.
"They never doubted my decision as far as cricket was concerned. I am especially thankful to Dada [Ganguly] and captain Manoj [Tiwary] who were [the] backbone of me doing well for Bengal. [Coach] Sairaj Bahutule and Manoj always had the confidence in me and backed me."
CAB joint-secretary, Avishek Dalmiya, said the decision to not let Ojha go was taken with the best interests of Bengal cricket in mind. "I think it is all about the betterment of Bengal cricket and Sourav, who was dealing with the matter, has done that keeping in mind," Dalmiya told ESPNcricinfo. "The thinking must have been that otherwise Sourav wouldn't have taken a decision like that. It was just decided yesterday [Wednesday]. A mail has been sent to the BCCI informing the decision. I am sure Pragyan will also be informed [soon]."
Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun