New Delhi: Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha on Saturday became the third fastest Indian bowler to reach the milestone of 100 wickets in Test cricket. Ojha's 100th wicket was Australian tailender James Pattinson, who edged to first slip, and that put him behind two other Indian spinners, Erapalli Prasanna and Anil Kumble, in terms of the quickest to do so.
Prasanna, the former India offspinner, took his 100th wicket in his 20th Test, which came against Australia in Delhi on November 28, 1969. Kumble reached the landmark in his 21st Test, which was in Bangalore against New Zealand on October 15, 1995.
In terms of days, however, Ojha is the fastest; he took three years and 32 days to reach the 100-wicket mark. Kumble needed five years and 70 days to get to 100 wickets. It took Prasanna seven years and 22 days to get to 100 wickets, but this included five years of absence from the Test scene as he finished his undergraduate studies.
Ojha has quietly and efficiently found his way to 100 Test wickets (the 13th Indian spinner to reach the landmark). Since making his debut against Sri Lanka at Nagpur on November 24, 2009 he has gone from a containing, second-choice spinner behind Harbhajan Singh to India's No. 1 slow bowler in Tests. Over the last four years, since he made his Test debut, he has been India's leading wicket-taker with 100 wickets. The next closest are Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma with 95, followed by Harbhajan (92) and R Ashwin (90). Ashwin's 90 have come in just 16 Tests, making him the favorite to beat Prasanna, Kumble and Ojha to 100.
His start was unspectacular, but in 2010 and 2012 Ojha took 33 wickets respectively. Ojha has had the most success against New Zealand, against whom he taken 25 wickets in five Tests at an average of 27.56. Next best for Ojha are England and West Indies, against whom he has taken 20 wickets. Most recently, he was the leading wicket-taker in the defeat to England last year with 20 victims at 30.85. Ojha did not play the first two Tests against Australia in Chennai and Hyderabad, but returned in Mohali where India clinched the series 3-0 and took four wickets. Ojha had to wait 34 overs since the time to take wicket No. 99 in Mohali until Pattinson became his 100th, off the first ball of Ojha's 27th over.
Ojha has never played a Test outside India, which has and will continue to be a pertinent observation in discussions on his effectiveness. Eighteen of his 22 Tests have been played in India, at an average of 29.34 and strike-rate of 67.6. In three Tests in Sri Lanka, Ojha took eight wickets at an average of 64.37 and strike-rate of 123. In his solitary Test in Bangladesh, Ojha took four wickets at 31.50 and 57 respectively.
Significantly, in matches won by India Ojha's bowling average and strike-rate drop considerably as compared to defeats and draws. He has featured in 13 Tests wins out of 22, taking 73 wickets at an average of 25.84 and strike-rate of 57.20. Those numbers swell to 43.70 and 79.80 in defeats and 51.50 and 127.3 in draws. A breakdown of his dismissal methods show that a majority of Ojha's wickets have been caught (54) as compared to 31 lbw, ten stumped and seven bowled.
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