Pragyan Ojha has joined Bengal as a professional after leaving his home team Hyderabad. Ojha, who was cleared to bowl in February after being suspended for using an illegal action earlier in the 2014-15 season, confirmed that he decided to move to Bengal for strengthening his case of a recall into the national team.
"With all due respects to Hyderabad, I wanted to play for a team that is in the top rung (of the Ranji Trophy) and Bengal suited my cause. With so many Test matches coming up, I hope to come up with stronger performances in the coming season," Ojha told ESPNcricinfo.
Ojha will start the new season next month, playing for India A in two four-day games against Australia A. India are scheduled to play three Test matches in Sri Lanka in August-September, followed by four matches at home against South Africa in October-November.
With Hyderabad playing in Group C, the lowest rung of the Ranji Trophy, Ojha opted to switch allegiance to a higher-ranked team. Bengal were happy to have him on board since they were struggling to find a lead spinner.
Ojha will thus become the second high-profile cricketer to leave Hyderabad in recent seasons. After a spat with the Hyderabad Cricket Association hierarchy, Ambati Rayudu had moved first to neighbouring Andhra before settling on Baroda. Ojha's switch, on the other hand, looks like a smooth one.
"He approached us and explained his rationale honestly," John Manoj, the HCA secretary, said. "Once he had made up his mind, we just respected his decision, supported him and issued the NOC."
According to BCCI rules, players who wish to turn professional have to first obtain a No-Objection certificate from their home association and submit it to the BCCI. The deadline for domestic transfers is September 1.
Bengal, meanwhile, have approached Lalchand Rajput, the former India opening batsman, to replace Ashok Malhotra as coach. It is understood that Rajput has also been in talks with Uttar Pradesh, who are looking for a replacement for Venkatesh Prasad.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo